Not content with having just seen the Housing & Planning Bill being passed into law (Royal Assent gained on 12th May), the Government announced more changes to world of town and country planning. The Queen’s speech this morning has announced legislation “to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow”, a key element of which will be a Neighbourhood Planning & Infrastructure Bill.
The Government hopes that the Bill will curtail councils’ ability to attach planning conditions which delay development. The Government has previously expressed concerns that some councils misuse conditions in an attempt to halt or delay developments from proceeding. The Bill will prevent councils from attaching pre-commencement conditions to planning permissions other than when absolutely necessary.
The same Bill will aim to provide a fillip to the neighbourhood planning system, making the neighbourhood plans more easy to review and update and requiring planning authorities to support neighbourhood forums. It is also intended to reform the compulsory purchase regime.
Planning, a world of constant change at present!
The latest standing on the matter of the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government wanting to reduce affordable housing contributions on small scale housing developments in the face of opposition from some Local Planning Authorities sees the Secretary of State one step ahead following the recent decision of the Court of Appeal.
Some may remember that following the publication of a written ministerial statement in November 2014, which set out revised policy on affordable housing provision, the Government’s online Planning Practice Guidance on the subject was amended.
The new policy proposed that:
(1) Developments of no more than 10 homes (with a gross floorspace not exceeding 1,000m²) would be exempted from levies for affordable housing and tariff-based contributions;
(2) In designated rural areas, National Parks and AONBs, however, the exemptions would apply only to developments not exceeding 5 new homes but developments of 6 – 10 homes could pay a commuted sum, either at or after completion of the development; and
(3) Redevelopment of a vacant building, or its demolition for redevelopment, would give rise to a credit (calculated in terms of floorspace) that could be off-set against any affordable housing contribution.
The Government’s hope was that this would improve the commercial viability of small housing schemes and assist in the aim of boosting the numbers of new houses being built.
However, two Local Planning Authorities (West Berkshire DC and Reading BC), were so concerned that this new policy would reduce the amount of new affordable housing being provided within their areas that they challenged it in the High Court. In July 2015 the High Court ruled in favour of the two Councils and quashed the new policy.
Subsequently, the Secretary of State sought to appeal through the Court of Appeal. The Court’s decision was issued on 11th May 2016. The Court allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against the quashing order, the result of which is that the policy introduced in November 2014 is extant once again.
Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal is subject to further challenge is a moot point and we will have to wait and see. Until such a time however, many small scale housing developments will no longer be required to provide affordable housing.
If you are considering a small scale housing development talk to Prism planning, we just might be able to help.