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Planning Speed Read – September 2016

Further confusion over the Affordable Housing Small Sites Exemption

Whilst we reported in May the Government’s successful Court of Appeal challenge which led to the reinstatement of the small sites exemption for affordable housing, a recent Inspector’s decision suggests that this is not the end of the story.

Last week an Inspector dismissed an appeal against South Cambridgeshire District Council’s decision to refuse a planning application for 8 residential dwellings.

Although the refusal was not based on affordable housing grounds the inspector found that, if he had allowed the appeal, it would have been necessary for the proposed development to comply with a local plan policy which required at least 40% of homes on all sites of two dwellings or more to be affordable.

In making this comment the inspector acknowledged the written ministerial policy (now reflected in Planning Practice Guidance) but considered that the “local evidence of affordable housing need was substantial” and therefore he attached “significant weight to this consideration”.

The inspector also placed reliance on the fact that no evidence was presented to suggest that the level of affordable housing sought would make the development unviable.

This case has the potential to provide ammunition to Local Planning Authorities looking to require affordable housing contributions on sites of 10 units or fewer. However, key points from this decision were the local evidence base of affordable housing need and viability. The onus may therefore be on the developer to be able to demonstrate that an affordable housing contribution on a small site is not viable.

Please click here for the appeal decision.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in Newcastle and Gateshead – Update

As we have previously reported, the Draft Community Infrastructure Charging Schedules for Newcastle and Gateshead were approved, with minor amendments, by the Planning Inspectorate in August 2016.

The Charging Schedule was considered by Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet on 19 September 2016 and recommended for adoption. The Charging Schedule is therefore set to come into force on 14 November 2016 and will be applied in respect of all planning applications determined after this date.

Once adopted, Newcastle will become the first North East Local Authority to charge CIL, with Gateshead due to follow suit in early 2017.

Newcastle City Council has outlined its plans to introduce an instalment policy in guidance issued in February 2016. The Council has also stated that it may be possible to sub-divide a development into phases so that each phase incurs its own, separate, CIL liability.

However, the Council has suggested that this should be discussed with them at the pre-application stage.

If you are awaiting the outcome of an application that will potentially be determined after 14 November 2016 and you wish to consider sub-division of the development, you should contact the Planning Department as soon as possible in order to discuss the options available.

Newcastle City Council’s Charging Schedule is available by clicking here.

Government Announces Neighbourhood Planning Bill and Consultation

Back in May 2016, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 brought into effect various provisions to strengthen the Neighbourhood Planning process.

The response to the technical consultation over the arrangements to bring the new provisions into effect was published in September 2016 and the ink was barely dry on this document before the Government introduced further legislation by way of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which was laid before Parliament on 7 September 2016.

One of the aims of the Bill is to strengthen neighbourhood planning, for example by ensuring that planning decision‐makers take into account well‐advanced neighbourhood development plans. The Bill also contains new provisions for modifying existing neighbourhood plans and makes the duty on local planning authorities to support neighbourhood planning groups more transparent.

Another key aspect of the Bill for developers is the proposed restriction on pre-commencement planning conditions. The Bill provides that these will only be allowed with the written agreement of the applicant.

A further technical consultation has been launched to run in parallel with the progression of the Bill and is due to consider the effect of these proposals. The consultation clarifies that the provisions will not restrict the ability of the LPA to propose pre-commencement conditions that may be necessary (e.g. archaeological investigations).

However, the aim is to provide the applicant with an early opportunity to challenge any pre-commencement conditions which may be unnecessary, for example, where they are capable of being discharged later in the development process.

Whilst early discussions on pre-commencement conditions may be welcomed by developers, this may potentially risk delaying the application process if agreement cannot be reached in respect of the proposed conditions.

The consultation invites comments in relation to how the proposals may work in practice and specifically asks whether it would be necessary to set out a default period after which an applicant’s agreement would be deemed to be given. The consultation is open until 12pm on 2 November.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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