The proposed development was the conversion of a central office block into 24 flats. The site previously benefitted from existing prior approval Class O conversion into 27 flats.
Wokingham Borough Council sought 8 on-site affordable housing units and £60,000 in S106 contributions.
This case was a long-running one requiring resubmission to resolve entrenched negotiating positions and demonstrating the importance of both councils and applicants instructing experienced, reputable and most importantly independent firms to assess viability rationally. Unfortunately in this case the council's consultant's non-standard and non-guidance compliant approach resulted in significant delays and costs to both parties.
In the first application the consultant commissioned by the council adopted a hard negotiating position that bore little relation to the viability fundamentals of the scheme. The approach appeared to be that no evidence was relevant and that in all cases a fully policy compliant scheme could be achieved. This was unfortunately incorrect. The existing use value of the office block was high and fully corroborated by RICS valuations. The alternative use value of the permitted development scheme was contested due to its timing constraints, but the planning officer agreed this could be renewed. Positions hardened due to the unorthodox approach taken by the council's consultant, and while S106M took every step to reach a reasonable compromise agreement, unfortunately a best and final offer was rejected by the council's consultant and the scheme stalled.
Strategically we advised that a new application or appeal would have a strong chance of success. The applicant renewed their PD consent and resubmitted anew, revised application dealing with several minor planning points which required resolution. During this application a choice of outsourced consultants quotes was sought and offered. The applicant chose a different consultant to the previous application with good local knowledge and reputation. S106M built on previous negotiations to reduce areas of potential disagreement, and agreed to offer a late review mechanism in order to circumnavigate any potential concerns given the previous consultant's position. The council's review found a small surplus of £76,000 which the applicant agreed to pay on the basis that the site was now under offer.