St Georges residents challenge actions of LBTH Planning Officers
1. Consent was granted by LBTH Strategic Development Committee in August 08 for an application for development consisting of 139 ‘market units’ and 54 ‘affordable units’ (with a tenure mix of 23 ‘intermediate’ and 31 ‘social rented’ units) together with refurbishment of existing units and provision of community facilities.
2. Central to planning officers’ appraisal of the scheme, and recommendation to Members for its approval, was the consideration that the proposed development was for an ‘estate regeneration site’ where particular policy provisions apply under LBTH’ Interim Planning Guidance for the purposes of Development Copntrol.
3. Central to these policy provisions is the facilitation of the refurbishment of existing estate buildings to Decent Homes Plus Standard through ‘cross-subsidy’ generated by market development.
4. The fiscal justification for the scheme was accordingly based on financial appraisals demonstrating that the cost of providing 25% affordable housing, and cross subsidy for the refurbishment proposals, would be provided as a result of the market development.
5. This was the basis on which SDC Members approved the scheme, with the added requirement that funding for a further 10% affordable housing would be provided by HCA grant subsidy.
6. Following the SDC Members’ concern over the level of affordable housing, a revaluation was carried out before the final Committee meeting in August 08 which reflected the full extent of the financial crisis and identified that without grant funding EeH’ business partner, Telford Homes, would no longer be able to finance the 25% affordable component of the scheme or provide cross-subsidy for refurbishment at the levels previously agreed and on which the application had been justified in planning terms.
7. These facts were not made known to SDC Members.
8. Planning Officers appear to have misled the SDC Members with the introduction of Option 2 of their recommendation asserting that the scheme could finance 25% of its affordable component, at a time when it had already been confirmed by the revaluation that this was not possible.
9. Telford Homes/LBTH Planning Officers presented figures to the HCA supporting a bid for grant subsidy amounting to £8+million. These figures were totally at variance with the ones presented to the SDC Members and on the basis of which planning consent for the development proposal was granted.
It is our view that LBTH Planning Officers’ actions constitute a very clear and serious abuse of process in:
• Failing to pass on relevant information to the SDC Members;
• Providing false assurances to the SDC Members regarding the viability of the scheme;
• Acting ‘ultra vires’ in supporting a bid to the HCA for grant subsidy.
The inevitable result of this maladministration on the part of LBTH is that the planning consent, with all its legal force, is at total variance with the scheme the HCA has agreed to fund.