Vacant Building Credit & Small Site Exemption Restored
In November 2014, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis announced that housing developments in England of 10 units or fewer or that were smaller than 1,000 square metres in area would be exempted from Section 106 affordable housing contributions. Lewis also announced that developers would receive a credit in respect of the amount of floorspace of a vacant building being brought back into use or demolished, which could be offset against affordable housing contributions.
The High Court, based on challenges from Local Authorities, ruled last year that this directive was unlawful and the policy was immediately removed from the National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG).
However, the Court of Appeal have last week disagreed with this ruling on all grounds and reversed the decision, thus restoring vacant building credit and exemption on sites below 10 units.
The effect of this appears to be that the small sites exemption and vacant building credit are restored as national planning policy. We understand that the Planning Inspectorate is now considering that both elements can be considered as a material consideration in planning terms. No changes have yet been made to the NPPG, but this is expected to follow shortly.
The restoration of vacant building credit will prompt discussions with local authorities for any applications that do not yet have consent (including those with committee resolutions). This change in policy comes from before this decision was handed down by the Court of Appeal, and so local authorities will need to take this into account in their decision making. Developers are now in a position to make this point strongly to them.
Kingsbury manage planning and development strategies for a wide range of clients across London and the South of England.
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