Small Development and Vacant Building Credit Exemptions Now Don’t Apply


The High Court has recently upheld a challenge by West Berkshire and Reading Borough Councils against the Governments controversial stance that small developments are exempt from affordable housing contributions. The ruling also removed vacant building credits.

West Berkshire and Reading Borough Councils challenged the requirement, which were made mandatory via a Written Ministerial Statement. The Statement sought to amend national planning policy by removing the need to provide affordable housing and contributions for schemes of 10 units or 1,000 square meters of less (or 5 units or less in designated rural areas, National Parks and AONBs). It also introduced the Vacant Building Credit where the floorspace of buildings re-used or demolished would be off-set against affordable housing contributions.

The authorities claimed that the requirement would drastically reduce the amount of affordable housing being provided within their boundaries and across the country in general. They challenged the policy on a number of grounds, with the High Court finding in favour of the Councils on four of the five grounds challenged.

The High Court found that the policies were incompatible with the statutory planning framework, with the Secretary of State having no power to make policies outside the plan process. The Court also found that consultation was unfair, and the Secretary of State failed to take into account the material consequences of the changes.

Whilst the Government has now removed the relevant paragraphs from the National Planning Practice Guidance it is likely that the decision will be appealed.

For now the small development and vacant building exemptions don’t apply.