Silver Hill housing: Affordable and social homes plan 'unlawfully' scrapped by Winchester council

A plan for 100 affordable and social homes was ditched for 'viability reasons'

Lamiat Sabin
Saturday 14 February 2015 12:13
An artist's impression of the proposed Silver Hill scheme in Winchester
An artist's impression of the proposed Silver Hill scheme in Winchester

A council that allowed the complete removal of affordable and social housing from city centre development plans has “acted unlawfully”, a High Court judge has ruled.

All housing with capped market rents or social rates were removed from a contract for the £150 million Silver Hill scheme in Winchester to make more room for businesses.

The initial plans included 73 affordable and 27 social homes.

The judicial review brought against Winchester City Council was spearheaded by Tory councillor Kim Gottlieb, who campaigned against the development and personally funded the case.

His campaign, Winchester Deserves Better, says that the architectural plans agreed by the council, also Conservative, “ruin the character of the city and wreck its thriving high street”.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that developer TIAA Henderson was obliged to provide affordable and social housing as, combined, they are a “required element” of the legally-binding agreement in return for planning permission.

Planning consultants DP9 – on behalf of the developer – wrote to the council last September to say that they would need to scrap plans for affordable and social homes for “viability reasons.”

The High Court ruled that the developer should have taken finances into account before bidding for the contract.

The development area would include King's Walk

Legal advice was taken before the changes were agreed to, Winchester City Council said in a statement.

Money would also be accepted from developers to build affordable and social rent homes “in more appropriate locations” under Coalition Government policy, it added.

“There is a genuine shortage of affordable housing in Winchester, with demand for affordable housing massively outstripping supply and the number of people on the waiting list is increasing monthly,” the council website states.

A minimum of 364 residential units were outlined in the initial contract. At least 35% have to be affordable housing, of which 15 per cent should be made available to people on the over-subscribed council waiting list.

TIAA Henderson revised the plans to only include around 180 properties in total, all at market rents. They have offered up to £2 million to Winchester Council – to provide social housing off-site. The council had agreed to this in December.

Mrs Lang ruled that the significant changes of the original agreement should have triggered a new procurement exercise of the contract under EU regulations.

Letters from TIAA Henderson to the local authority stated that the council no longer had the right to terminate the contract.

In June last year, the developers also sought consent from the council to cancel plans for a Shop Mobility Centre and Dial A Ride premises on the site, which were also compulsory elements of the contract.

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