Report awaited following consultation on affordable housing contributions

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The last few years have seen a number of steps being taken as part of the Government’s aim to transform the planning system into a more transparent, efficient and locally-driven process. Measures such as the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 have gone some way to achieving this. However, with this comes heightened pressure on local planning authorities to use their powers appropriately to encourage suitable development and housing delivery.

A large proportion of Section 106 Agreements incorporate requirements relating to affordable housing contributions, with these accounting for approximately half of the value of all planning obligations. Recent years have seen growing concerns regarding the disproportionate burden this can place on small-scale developers, including those building their own homes or simply seeking consent for less extensive sites. In light of this, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) suggested the introduction of a restriction so affordable housing contributions through Section 106 planning obligations can only be sought where sites are for:

  • more than ten units with a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres; and
  • residential extensions or annexes.

Views were also sought on whether affordable housing contributions should no longer be required vis-a-vis developments bringing buildings back into use (except proportionately for any increase in floor space). DCLG’s intention here appears to have been to incentivise brownfield development in situations where there is otherwise limited impact on local infrastructure.

While DCLG has already published its report and implemented some changes in other areas considered as part of the same consultation, progress on the affordable housing contribution threshold is still awaited. The maximum total floor space being combined with a unit-based measurement certainly prevents the use of more imaginative approaches to construction density in any attempt to take advantage of the restriction. In addition, some development sites in rural areas will not be within the scope. So-called ‘Rural Exception Sites’ provide affordable housing on land that would not otherwise be acceptable for development. They are seen as vital in providing new affordable homes in rural communities where development costs are usually inflated, so are not part of the proposal. For more information and further updates, contact the Planning & Environment team at Walker Morris.