Ruling quashes policy on small site affordable housing

A policy to exempt small developments from having to make affordable housing contributions has been quashed by the High Court.

In the far reaching ruling handed down on Friday, the High Court ordered that the policy be removed from the government’s national planning practice guidance.

Jenny Wigley, a Barrister with No5 Chambers specialising in planning law, said the practical implications of the ruling will have an immediate effect on developers’ negotiations on small scale and brownfield sites.

She said:

“Following this landmark Judgment, the Government has announced that the relevant paragraphs of the National Planning Practice Guidance will be removed and this is now reflected on the NPPG website.

“Accordingly, with immediate effect, developers will be unable to rely on those paragraphs in negotiations as to affordable housing and tariff style infrastructure contributions. The vacant building credit will also no longer be applicable.”

Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire District Council had jointly asked the High Court to quash the planning guidance which said small developments did not need to include affordable housing.

The two councils claimed that the policy, which was introduced in a ministerial statement in Parliament last November, would reduce the amount of affordable housing across the country by 20 percent.

Mr Justice Holgate quashed the policy, which excluded developments of ten homes or fewer, or 1,000 square metres or less, from the requirement to provide or contribute to affordable housing provision. In rural areas, a lower threshold of five homes would apply.

The judge ruled that the policy was “incompatible” with the statutory planning framework. The Department for Communities and Local Government have indicated that they will be seeking to appeal the decision.