6th July 2016
Affordable housing contributions – are they required or not?
Hot on the heels of winning in the Court of Appeal in the case of West Berkshire DC v Department for Communities and Local Government (2016) EWCA 441, the Government has immediately reinserted provisions relating to affordable housing contributions on small scale sites and Vacant Building Credit (VBC) arising from the Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) into the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).
However as it is only guidance and does not yet form part of the National Planning Policy Framework, the weight to be attached to it in the planning balance is still considered limited by some LPAs.
For example, while one former Avon LPA confirms that no affordable housing contributions are being sought on small sites, another maintains that it has robust evidence of affordable housing need which it considers to outweigh the WMS and therefore still require affordable housing contributions.
As predicted in May at the time of the Court of Appeal judgement, there remains uncertainty and inconsistency in how much weight should be applied to the WMS and whether affordable housing contributions can be required by LPAs.
Separately, but also of interest is s.159 (6) the Housing and Planning Act 2016 granting the Secretary of State power to make regulations amending affordable housing definitions. This means that the Government can change affordable housing requirements with limited notice, providing little if any comfort to either LPAs or developers.
As always it remains to be seen how this will work in practice and what the long term practical implications will be.