At a meeting of the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Property Group held on 15th March at the offices of Boyes Turner LLP in Reading, Derek Ching, Partner in Boyes Turner’s Development and house building team, addressed an audience of local Chamber of Commerce members and property professionals from across the Thames Valley concerning the ongoing conflict between national and local government over whether councils should be allowed to force developers of small housing sites (10 or less) to make financial contributions towards the provision of affordable housing.
The audience, which included representatives of planning consultancy practices and developers as well as other legal practitioners heard how councils are fighting to preserve these contributions despite the operation of national policy which is designed to prevent them and despite ultimately unsuccessful Court action by both Reading and West Berkshire Councils to have the national policy declared unlawful. The Government introduced the national ban on such contributions as one way in which to encourage the faster development of small sites as part of their strategy of increasing the number of new homes that need to be built to meet rising demand. The councils point to the acute shortage of affordable housing, particularly in the south-east, as a reason for treating their local policies as an exception to the national rule prohibiting demands for such contributions.
The resultant conflict means delays to determination of planning applications and a series of appeals to the Planning Inspectorate. Derek highlighted the uncertainty caused by contradictory planning appeal decisions even within the same council area, contrasting recent cases within Reading Borough where different Inspectors came to different conclusions on much the same evidence. This uncertainty means that neither developers or the councils concerned can predict whether an appeal against such financial demands will succeed or not and attempts to secure consistency of approach from Central Government on this issue have fallen so far on deaf ears. In the light of the continuing confusion, Derek provided some guidance as to the ways in which developers can seek to maximise the chances of securing their planning permission and/or winning their appeals.
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