In the context of a flat-building project in central London, a High Court ruling has underlined that it is perfectly acceptable for local authorities to require would-be developers to invest in community facilities as part of the planning process.
A council granted planning consent for a multi-storey block of 79 flats, with three of those levels below ground. The development was to include shops, restaurants and, controversially, a multi-purpose community hall on the ground floor.
In challenging the permission, a company which had offices nearby pointed out that the hall would be leased back to the council for a peppercorn, but that it would be able to rent it out for private events. The company expressed concern that the hall would be a potential source of revenue for the council and that such considerations may have undermined the integrity of the planning decision.
In rejecting those arguments as wholly without merit, the Court found that the company had displayed a singular lack of understanding of the way in which community facilities are provided in the real world. It noted that community halls are routinely rented out by councils all over the country for wedding receptions, keep fit classes, amateur dramatic shows and the like. The council had properly exercised its planning judgement and had not been illegitimately swayed by the prospect of swelling its coffers.