A case of interpretation

The following case (DCS Number 400-010-134) is interesting because it concerns a housing policy which was drafted in such a way that it was able to accommodate a change in housing need which has occurred over time.

We are, again, in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The appellant sought permission to convert two flats (one two-bedroom flat and one one-bedroom flat) to one three-bedroom flat. A local plan policy stated that development would be resisted which resulted in the net loss of five or more residential units. The appellant argued that his development was not contrary to this criterion as only one unit would be lost. The background was that prior to 2014 the council had taken the view that whilst amalgamations that resulted in the loss of five or more residential units required planning permission, the loss of four units or fewer normally did not. However, in August 2014 the council changed its stance in recognition of its increasing difficulties in meeting its housing targets, taking the view that the loss of any residential unit through amalgamation would require planning permission. Notwithstanding this differing assessment of housing pressures and when planning permission might be needed, the change was not reflected in any formal amendment to the policies of the adopted development plan, the inspector noted. Nevertheless, he was not convinced that the policy necessarily implied that the council would not resist developments which resulted in the loss of less than five residential units. He noted that whilst it was absolutely clear as to larger amalgamations, it was silent on those which resulted in a loss of four units or less. He concluded that the personal benefits to the appellant were in themselves insufficient to outweigh the public policy disadvantages of the loss of a unit of residential accommodation.  

Policy planners might be able to think of similarly drafted policies in their own local plans.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 11.1

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