Ever increasing demand for housing in urban areas means local authorities are reluctant to approve developments that entail the loss of even a small number of residential units. The point was made as the High Court scotched two proposals to knock multiple Central London properties into one.
The proposals involved turning four small flats into one unit and two cottages into a single family home. Planning permission was refused in both cases by the local authority for the area, but the owners of the properties successfully appealed to government planning inspectors, who granted consent.
In challenging the inspectors’ decisions, the council argued that, in both cases, they had made the same mathematical error when calculating housing land supply in the area. Whilst deducting vacant units that were expected to return to use from the requirement side of the equation, they had included them on the supply side.
In the cottages’ case, the owner argued that the loss of a single residential unit in a local authority area that had 87,000 such units was insignificant. The owner of the flats pointed to a lack of good-sized family homes in the area, which had an abundance of one- and two-bedroom apartments.
In quashing the permissions, however, the Court noted that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government had not sought to defend the inspectors’ decisions. The mistakes were material and the inspectors would not necessarily have reached the same conclusions had they not been made.