The Development Management Officer (DMO), Be First presented a report detailing an application for a Section 73 Variation to a number of conditions and the proposed Heads of Terms contained in a Section 106 Agreement relating to the planning permission granted in July 2019 for a residential development at 200 Becontree, Dagenham.
In addition to internal and external consultations, a total of 104 neighbouring properties were consulted. At the time of the publication of the report no objections had been received, however a supplementary report was presented outlining one late neighbour objection on the grounds of a change tenure from shared ownership to affordable rental. The officer response was contained in the planning assessment set out in both the published and supplementary reports, the latter of which also included a series of minor amendments to conditions put forward by the applicant.
The objector who was present at the meeting outlined their concern as to the change of tenure suggesting it would result in a lack of people wishing to build a long-term stake in the community. They claimed that properties for rent would lead to short term lets placing more strain on local public services. The site having previously been a synagogue had always been a community resource and converting it to short term rented accommodation was in their view a backward step.
It was suggested that the reasons for the change in tenure put forward by the applicant that affordable rent was considered more value to meet the local community needs was weak and without justification, and that rather it was more to do with the financial gain to the applicant.
In response the applicant explained that the Council had over the past year been developing its Local Plan and that forming part of this the latest housing needs assessment from February 2020 has shown that 1500 affordable units were needed to be constructed every year in the Borough to meet local requirements. A further assessment showed that only 20% of households could afford to purchase a London shared ownership property as opposed to 60% affording rental prices. This clearly demonstrated a need to make available a higher proportion of affordable rental properties.
The applicant pointed out although the monthly costs of both tenures were similar, the key difference was the deposit required for a shared ownership property meaning affordable rented properties were more accessible to a larger number of local households. In respect to the proposed variation, the evidence as to local housing need and this site in particular, did form a material planning consideration. Furthermore, it was the stated view of B&D Reside who would manage these properties, that the planned tenure and mix on this site would meet the needs of those on their waiting lists, another material planning consideration.
The objector stated that the officer response was not a new analysis of the housing need with the same argument about affordability put forward when the application was first approved. It therefore did not explain or provide justification for the applicant requesting the change in tenure now.
Members, whilst supportive of the planning merits of the application, did express concerns about aspects of Be First’s communications with local residents concerning their proposed amendments with this scheme. The applicant explained that although the housing need assessment was published in February 2020, they took time to review its implications as to what changes in tenure mix might be applied to their wider portfolio of housing sites in the Borough. Therefore, given the advanced stage of development on this site it was decided to seek the variation to 100% affordable rent. This view was communicated to local residents in a newsletter in August 2020.
Having regard to the changes as proposed and additional details submitted for consideration set out in the supplementary report, the officers considered that the proposal was generally in accordance with relevant planning policy.
The Committee resolved to:
(i) Agree the reasons for approval as set out in the report;
(ii) Delegate authority to the Director of Inclusive Growth (or other authorised Officer) in consultation with the Director of Law and Governance to grant planning permission subject to any direction from the Mayor of London, the completion of a Unilateral Undertaking under S106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended), based on the Heads of Terms identified at Appendix 7 of the report and the Conditions listed at Appendix 6 of the report; and
(iii) That, if by 19 April 2021 the legal agreement has not been completed, the Director of Inclusive Growth (or other authorised officer) has delegated authority to refuse planning permission or extend this timeframe to grant approval.