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Affordable Housing Thresholds – High Court Guidance

FlatsProvision of affordable housing is an essential objective of the planning process but is not always popular with developers. In one High Court case, construction of four homes in a small village was blocked after the would-be developer withdrew an offer to contribute almost £120,000 towards affordable homes in the area.

The case concerned the former car parking area (area 1) and beer garden (area 2) of a disused pub. The local authority’s policy (the policy) stated that, in villages with a population of 3,000 or fewer, contributions towards affordable housing would generally be required for developments comprising five or more dwellings.

The developer obtained planning consent to build four homes in area 1 without any affordable housing requirement being imposed. It was subsequently also granted consent to construct four homes in area 2 after it agreed to contribute £118,400 towards the provision of affordable housing off-site. However, the developer’s later application for consent for a slightly amended scheme in respect of area 2 was refused after it withdrew its financial offer. An appeal against that refusal was rejected by a government planning inspector.

In dismissing the developer’s challenge to the latter decision, the High Court rejected arguments that the inspector had erred in law. On a true reading of the policy, the inspector was permitted to consider the two areas in aggregate and to treat them as forming part of a larger development site. The five-dwelling threshold in respect of affordable housing had thus been crossed.

New Dawn Homes Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/4193/2016