“Last month we explained the changes to national planning policy that offer the opportunity to bring forward small scale housing development, including agricultural worker dwellings, without incurring affordable housing restrictions or Section 106 financial contribution obligations. Alongside those measures, the Government also introduced the ‘Vacant Building Credit’ (VBC) to encourage the redevelopment of vacant buildings”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
Dinnis explains that the principle of the VBC is simple in that where a vacant building is brought back into any 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. The credit is therefore aimed at preventing LPAs from seeking financial contributions towards off site affordable housing and onsite affordable units where vacant buildings are brought back into use unless there is an 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.
Dinnis comments that there is a lack of guidance from the Government on the VBC which is already raising some questions and that Acorn RPC is aware that some local planning authorities are looking at ways that they may be able to avoid the VBC.
“Unlike the measures that we explained last month that are subject to thresholds and do not apply to rural exception sites, the VBC is not subject to any threshold or geographic restrictions so for example residential barn conversions could be exempt from providing affordable housing”, says Dinnis. “However, the VBC has not yet been tested in applications for barn conversions and Acorn RPC has therefore contacted the Government for clarification on the use of the credit”, adds Dinnis. In the meantime, Acorn RPC would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in the new policy.
For further advice on the credit or any other rural planning matters, please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 214052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.