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11th May 2016

Small housing exemption to return following Government’s Court of Appeal victory

The Government has successfully overturned the High Court s decision which had previously quashed the small housing exemption and vacant building credit. This Court of Appeal judgment has been eagerly awaited by many after it was announced that the…

…Government would challenge the High Court’s ruling in September 2015.

The High Court previously found in favour of West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council in July 2015, holding that these Government policies:

  1. were inconsistent with the statutory scheme;
  2. failed to take into account material considerations;
  3. involved inadequate consultation; and
  4. breached the public sector equality duty

The Government challenged the High Court’s ruling on all four counts; the Court of Appeal found in their favour in each case.

As explained in our previous article on this case, the small housing exemption enables developments of 10 units or less with a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres to avoid affordable housing and tariff-based contributions as well as providing a blanket exemption for all residential annexes and extensions.

Small housing developments of up to five units in designated rural areas such as national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty also benefit from a complete exemption from affordable housing and tariff style contributions.

Vacant building credit is a Government incentive to encourage development of brownfield sites by giving a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of the vacant buildings when calculating affordable housing contributions (any buildings brought back into lawful use or demolished to be replaced by a new building).

Rosalyn Trotman, planning solicitor at Thrings, comments: “Today’s decision will be welcome news to small housing developers and property developers looking to progress smaller-scale developments in the most viable way without such developments being hampered by contributions to infrastructure.”

However, we will have to watch the space to see if West Berkshire and Reading wish to pursue this matter to the Supreme Court.

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