A dispute over an affordable housing contribution has ended with complete success for a Fife developer. At appeal, the owner of the Pickletillum Inn, a decaying vacant property at Drumoig near St Andrews persuaded the reporter it was appropriate to grant permission for its replacement with five houses. However, five is the number of housing units that triggers Fife’s affordable housing policy. The reporter issued a minded-to-grant letter subject to conclusion of a planning agreement to secure the contribution. The Council and developer however could not reach agreement. The developer then returned to the reporter to say there would be no agreement and that she would apply for four houses (i.e. below the affordable housing trigger) if the application was turned down. The reporter decided to grant permission despite the lack of agreement.
It’s rare to see a developer calling the Council’s bluff in this way, and may perhaps become still rarer:
- Despite the developer now having the option of giving a unilateral undertaking, she did not take that option. She claimed the contribution would make the fifth house unviable. Since she had the option of giving a unilateral undertaking, she might have sought to persuade the reporter by offering an undertaking securing a lower contribution as a compromise.
- The reporter was still willing to issue a minded-to-grant letter, and allow the Council and developer to come to an agreement. In England, inspectors have been insisting that they be given sight of unilateral obligations as part of the appeal documents.
The reporter considered that, although granting permission without a contribution would breach the council’s policies on affordable housing, compliance with other relevant development plan policies and the removal of this eyesore amounted to sufficient positive material considerations to justify the departure from policy. Given the option now available of applying to modify or discharge section 75 planning obligations, I wonder how often Fife will find this case cited as a precedent in such applications.
On December 19, 2011