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Government Affordable Housing Policy Quashed

Following the judgement in the Reading/West Berkshire Case on the Government’s Affordable Housing policy to limit affordable housing to schemes of less than 10 units or 1000 sq metres and to not seek financial contributions from such schemes, the National Planning Policy Guidance has been amended.  It now states:

Planning obligations

Paragraph: 030 Reference ID: 23b-030-20150731

Please note that paragraphs 012-023 of the guidance on planning obligations will be removed following the judgment in R (on the application of West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 2222 (Admin).

So where does this leave affordable housing policy in England? Simple answer, back where we started.  The policy was introduced in November 2014 following the issue of a Ministerial Statement.  For many small and medium sized developers it removed many of the viability issues on sites especially in Authorities such as Harborough District Council where the threshold for the provision of affordable housing is one unit net gain.

What happens next? The NPPG has been immediately changed which means many applications currently being considered by Local Planning Authorities will be caught by the change in the threshold.  This is likely to impact directly on the delivery of housing from sites of less than 10 units in those authorities where the NPPG ‘trumped’ local planning policy.    The Government have not yet issued a statement on what they will do next but with the Treasury’s increasing interest in planning, a Plan B is likely to emerge soon.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

Jennifer Smith

31 July 2015