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

For more information...

More about Stuart Thomas

Head of Planning & Development
Tel: 01743 267069
Mobile: 07747 474340

Stuart has an MA in Town Planning and Development, an honours degree in Human Geography, is a full member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and is a PRINCE II Project Management Qualified Practitioner. He joined Berrys in May 2013 and became a partner of the firm in April 2014. He is Head of Planning, responsible for the delivery of planning services across all five offices. Prior to joining Berrys, Stuart held a number of senior Council positions including Head of Development Control at North Shropshire District Council and Area Planning Manager at Shropshire Council.

Stuart has 15 years of experience is all aspects of planning. Specific areas of expertise include agricultural and intensive poultry planning, affordable housing, strategic residential, renewable and commercial developments and rural housing. Stuart has also considerable experience in understanding the finer detail of National Planning Policy, Community Infrastructure Levy, S106 negotiations and planning appeals.