Saturday, 8 August 2015

Court ruling against the 'gift' of Vacant Building Credit

Speaking at the last Planning Committee  LINK about the Vacant Building Credit, which enables developers to escape affordable housing requirements under somewhat vague criteria, Steve Weeks Head of Area Planning,  remarked, 'There has been much discussion in planning circles about how much of a gift this is to the development industry.' 

Now in a case brought by West Berkshire and Reading Councils on Vacant Building Credit, which allows developers to ignore affordable housing requirements on the development of empty buildings and an exemption from Section 106 requirements of any scheme involving 10 homes or fewer, Mr Justice Holgate has concluded that both policies had been implemented without a proper evidence base, against the advice of officials, and that they were simply “incompatible” with the statutory planning framework.

According to the Guardian LINK Holgate said. "No consideration was given to the lack of information on the impact of this policy change, notwithstanding the advice given by officials that this was necessary.” He also highlighted the problem that the policies were introduced as guidance, rather than primary legislation, without any consultation, creating a conflict with adopted local plans across the country – which have to be robustly evidenced.

The Guardian quotes a commentator's hope that the ruling may also lead to a review of Financial Viability Assessments whereby developers seek to reduce the amount of affordable housing they are required to build on grounds of insufficient financial return..

However the Department for Communities and Local Government has announced that it will  appeal the ruling. Let's hope the London Borough of Brent join those local authorities welcoming the ruling and join with those challenging government policy.

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