Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Planning at the fun fair - the affordable housing saga continues

It does seem these days that planning (and the affordable housing saga in particular) is getting more and more like a roller coaster ride – or perhaps one of those pirate boat swings at the fun fair.

Remember the November 2014 Ministerial statement on affordable housing thresholds that meant all of a sudden no small site (and by small this could still be up to 10 homes) need make any contribution to affordable housing?  This was challenged by some local authorities, and last summer it was declared unlawful in the Courts.  However the Government challenged that decision, and the Court of Appeal have now reversed the earlier judgement, although in their decision they have also made clear that the Ministerial Statement does not need to be “applied in a blanket fashion” and is “a material consideration … and no more”. 

So where does that leave these small sites?  Legal advisers I suspect are busy sharpening their pencils.  I don’t envy decision takers who have to balance all these points.  And I don’t envy the small scale builders who are probably wondering when the best time is to jump onto the ride.
Another space to watch is the newly enacted Housing and Planning Act which could be the trump card in this messy saga.  It included a clause (106ZB) allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations to impose restrictions or conditions on planning obligations for the provision of affordable housing, and how affordable housing is defined.  The ink is hardly dry on the paper, and these regulations will have to be drafted and approved by Parliament – but it may well be the only way which Government can guarantee that their original minimum thresholds get applied.