Council affordable housing reduction “unlawful”

Northampton planning committee needs to carefully consider the judgement.


REPRODUCED in full from Inside Housing


Council affordable housing reduction “unlawful”

12 February 2015 | By Daniel Douglas


A council that allowed a developer to completely remove affordable housing from a development acted unlawfully in not carrying out a procurement exercise, a High Court judge has ruled.


Winchester Council allowed developer TIAA Henderson to significantly revise plans in the 287-home Silver Hill scheme without going through procurement.


Affordable housing worth an estimated £7.36m, which had been agreed in 2008, was removed from the plans. The council instead agreed in December to accept a £1m commuted sum for off-site affordable housing provision, the High Court heard. The amount will rise to £1.5m if the scheme makes a 15% profit or more.


In a judgement handed down yesterday, Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the council, in reducing the affordable housing provision, acted unlawfully by breaking EU and English procurement rules.


An equivalent commuted sum payable for 35-40% affordable housing – the percentage originally agreed – on site would, according to the judgement, be in the region of £7.36m – making the £1m offer significantly lower. These changes constitute a ‘major change’ that should have triggered another procurement exercise, the judgement said.


The case was heard in January and was brought by a local Conservative councillor, Kim Gottlieb, against his own administration. Mr Gottlieb has also been leading a campaign against the development, ‘Winchester Deserves Better’. The case sparked a protest in Winchester in November.


Mr Gottlieb called for the council leader and chief executive to resign in the wake of the ruling.


He also said: ‘We are urging Eric Pickles to call in the application.’


Robert Humby, leader of Conservative-led Winchester City Council, said the council was looking at ‘options open to us, including whether we should abandon the existing approved scheme and begin again.’


In a statement TIAA Henderson Real estate said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed by the decision and we will now carefully consider the judgement.’


No decision has yet been made by the council on whether to appeal the judgement. The Department for Communities and Local Government did not comment on whether Mr Pickles would intervene.


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