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Changes to affordable housing contributions
Published January 6th, 2015
The government announced in November that residential developments for 10 units or less with a maximum gross floor space of 1,000 square metres will be exempt from affordable housing contributions, either on-site or via off-site financial payments. This also applies to residential extensions and annexes, writes Stuart Thomas, head of planning at Berrys.
For designated rural areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, authorities may choose to implement a lower threshold of five units or less.
The changes will not apply to rural exception sites which are granted permission on the basis that a local need for affordable housing is demonstrated.
Has there been a change in planning policy?
The Government’s planning policy is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is supported by National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) which supplements the NPPF and provides further detail on policy. The changes have been implemented into the NPPG and not the NPPF
How will this affect planning decisions?
Any adopted local council planning policy will remain in force until such time as it is reviewed or changed. Accordingly, most Councils will be faced with conflicting policies between stated government guidance and local objectives.
Councils will need to decide which carries greater weight in decision making. Our view is that the government guidance will be given the greater weight on the basis it is more up-to-date than local policies. However, we suspect that there will be resistance at a local level as Councils seek to protect well established and adopted policies.
We are aware that local Councils have sought legal advice on the changes. This advice will have a bearing on any undetermined planning application currently in the system or any application due to be submitted on the basis the Council must apply relevant and up-to-date planning policy in their decisions even is this is changed late on in the process.
How will this affect planning appeals?
The Planning Inspectorate must also consider and apply this change on a case by case basis. Over the coming days and weeks there will be appeal decisions which will important in deciding the most appropriate course of action for current or upcoming applications.
Can I renegotiate approved schemes?
Most affordable housing contributions are secured via a s106 planning obligation. If local policy and decision making changes then there can be a voluntary renegotiation with the Council, by a deed of variation agreed between the parties; or a formal application for a modification or discharge of the obligation, no sooner than five years after your consent was issued.
An alternative would be to re-submit planning applications not yet commenced or seek amendments to already commenced schemes. It remains to be seen how Council’s will deal with such requests, which will be influenced by upcoming planning appeal decisions and publication of legal advice.
For more information contact Stuart Thomas, Berrys’ partner and head of planning, on 01743 267069 or email firstname.lastname@example.org