Archive for August, 2015

Affordable housing

The National Planning Policy Framework (‘NPPF’) provides a policy within which local planning authorities (‘LPAs’) produce local and neighbourhood plans.  Where these identify local requirements for affordable housing, a LPA should generally set policies for meeting the need on site i.e., as Mr Justice Holgate stated in West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council v Department for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 2222 (Admin), “as a proportion of the total number of dwellings to be built on a site.  The aim of this longstanding policy objective is to help create mixed and balanced communities.”   “On the other hand,” the judge continued “the formulation of local plan policies to secure contributions to affordable housing from residential development sites is constrained by economic realism.”

Against that background, a Written Ministerial Statement issued in November 2014 stating “Due to the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small scale developers, for sites of 10 units or less, ad which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought.”  and a consequential change in National Planning Practice Guidance (‘NPPG’) came as a surprise to many LPAs.  As Mr Justice Holgate commented “The court was told that the policy changes introduced on 28 November 2014 have profound consequences for LPAs up and down the country in discharging their responsibilities under the planning system for the provision of affordable housing.”

West Berkshire DC and Reading BC sought to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision to change the NPPG.  According to a report in the independent publication Planning Resource, the two councils claimed the change in policy “would drastically reduce the amount of affordable housing across the country by more than 20 per cent.”

Mr Justice Holgate upheld the challenge and granted permission for judicial review.  Planning Resource reported that a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said “We are disappointed by the outcome of the judgement and will be seeking permission to appeal against the judge’s decision.  This will have a disproportionate impact on smaller builders who are important in providing homes for local communities.”   Watch this space!