Greenwich S106BC Appeal Decision to Remove Affordable Housing Requirements
Last week, the Secretary of State agreed to the removal of s106 obligations to provide affordable units within a scheme to deliver 34 residential units in Woolwich. Greenwich Council had failed to determine an application made under s106BA within the requisite 28 days so the appellant appealed with representations made by Neil Cameron QC. The main areas of dispute related to valuations and build costs as well as a review mechanism for a single phased scheme.
At the hearing evidence was provided by Gerald Eve to support the valuations within the appellant's viability assessment with up to date estate agent figures for the private units given the scarcity of reliable comparables within the vicinity of the development. In relation to the affordable units, all registered providers on the Council's approved list, plus five more, were approached and only one showed any interest at an offer well below benchmark viability. In respect of build costs, the Council sought to rely on the Build Costs Information Service (BCIS) but the Inspector held that these figures were too generalised and did not take into account the " complexity, specification and finish of the building".
Lastly, the Inspector agreed that the review mechanism should be removed given that post development appraisals should be avoided as they increase "uncertainty and risk" so undermining " the basis of a competitive return" which in turn could also lead to funding difficulties.
For the above reasons the Inspector ruled that the scheme was unviable with the affordable housing element included and ordered the S106 agreement to be varied to allow the stalled development to proceed.
Blake Morgan acted for the appellant.