“The Court of Appeal has handed down an important ruling that overturns last year’s High Court decision that held Government policies introducing the Vacant Building Credit (VBC) and exempting small scale development from affordable housing was unlawful. The effect of the ruling is that the policies are once again a material consideration in the assessment of planning applications”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
Dinnis explains, “the exemption policy is aimed at preventing Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) from seeking affordable housing and tariff style financial contributions from developments of 10 dwellings or fewer, and which have a combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000 square metres. In designated areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, LPAs are able to choose whether to apply a lower threshold of 5 units or fewer. The provisions do not apply to Rural Exception Sites (sites that would not normally be used for housing).
The VBC policy seeks to encourage the redevelopment of vacant buildings in that where a vacant building is brought back into lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building, affordable housing contributions should be payable only on any net increase in floor space. There is no time limit on how long a building has to be vacant to qualify for the credit as long as it has not been abandoned. The VBC is also not subject to any threshold or geographic restrictions so for example residential barn conversions will be exempt from providing affordable housing if they fall within the policy.
“The measures take priority over adopted local plans and offer the opportunity to develop smaller sites within identified settlement boundaries or from sites where the principle of development is likely to become acceptable under the scope of emerging local plans,” says Dinnis. “The provisions also mean that planning authorities should no longer be able to demand payments from farmers towards the provision or improvement of recreational open space before approving agricultural worker dwellings. Authorities that have demanded such payments in the past have in some cases added many thousands of pounds to the cost of dwellings, and it is helpful that theses additional costs, which are regarded by some as a ‘planning tax’, will no longer apply” concludes Dinnis.
For advice on rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 214052 or at email@example.com. Brian is a Chartered Surveyor and an associate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.