Should a renewable energy development have to pay a financial contribution towards affordable housing?

An appeal reporter (POA-110-2010) held that the planning authority had failed to provide any justification. He found that the contribution was not supported by development plan policies, the relationship to the development of wind turbines was not explained and consequentially the reasonableness test in Circular 3/2012 was not met.

Not only did the reporter modify the planning agreement to remove the obligation to pay the contribution; he also awarded expenses against the planning authority.

The contribution was £1,870. Not a substantial sum in itself, but the decision is a reminder that even obligations to pay small sums need to be justified.

The reporter also rejected the proposition that refusal was justified because the obligation had been freely entered into at the time it was made. That approach would thwart the statutory right to apply for modification or discharge.

The local community council’s response to the application sought the retention of the affordable housing contribution. Was undue weight given to that response by the councillors at a financial cost to the council?