The move will help smaller regional housebuilders and landowners by exempting most developments of 10 homes or fewer from making contributions towards affordable housing and other tariff-style planning payments.
According to Lee Scott, who’s head of planning south east at Smiths Gore, with demand for housing across the south east continuing to outstrip supply, any move which can help builders and landowners bring smaller sites forward must be supported.
He went on to say: “While there is a clear and pressing need for affordable housing – making small sites unviable was not the way to deliver it. Thirty per cent of zero is zero.”
The new rules also establish a lower threshold of five dwellings in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), but local planning authorities are free to work to the higher figure and may not require on-site provision.
Lee Scott also highlighted the fact that this change to legislation presents new opportunities for rural landowners to look again at sites which may have been rendered unviable, therefore enabling them to make more effective use of their existing assets in and around towns and villages.
He said: “Outside National Parks and AONBs, schemes of up to 10 dwellings, with less than 1,000m2 of floor space, will no longer be required to provide on-site affordable homes or contributions towards affordable homes elsewhere.
“The requirement to provide the contributions following completion on developments of six to 10 homes in National Parks and AONBs will help with developer cash flow and increase delivery in these areas, making sites more viable and more readily deliverable.”
The Government estimates the policy will save an average of £15,000 per dwelling in Section 106 housing contributions.
Councils will be given the option to apply a lower threshold of five units or less within designated rural areas. Where the lower threshold is applied, the Government has stated that developments of between six and 10 homes should only pay contributions following completion of the houses to help improve cash flow.
For sites where the threshold applies, the Government has clarified that planning obligations should not be sought to contribute to pooled funding pots intended to support the provision of general infrastructure in the wider area.
These types of contributions should only be required where they are necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms (such as improved road access or street lighting), directly related to the development, and fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind. Developers will however still be required to contribute towards a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), if one is in place.
The team at Smiths Gore believes this change will be a big step forward in realising the delivery of much-needed housing in rural areas and will help bring forward sites which up until now have been considered unviable or marginal in these areas, and support the rural economy.
Michael Wooldridge, partner at Smiths Gore, added: “This could have major implications for Kent where there are many new and emerging local plans where settlement boundaries restricting development to locations inside towns may be relaxed.
“These exemptions could make it possible for appropriate small-scale village housing schemes to be delivered without the burden of unnecessary and costly contributions to affordable housing and wider, unrelated infrastructure requirements.
“The added bonus is that this could also encourage the smaller sub-regional house-builders – of which there are many in Kent – back into the market, so providing useful competition for the national firms, and ultimately helping to deliver many more much-needed homes.”
If you want to talk through the implication of the planning changes contact Lee or Michael at Smiths Gore on 01732 879051.