The decision restores a government policy that means affordable homes contributions will fall to those bigger developers building the largest sites. Smaller builders developing sites of 10 homes or fewer will be able to get work started on their sites, without facing charges that could leave them unable to build.
Ministers criticised as “a total waste of taxpayers’ money” the moves by West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council, who had challenged the policy and brought legal action.
Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’re committed to building more homes, including record numbers of affordable homes – key to this is removing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy that prevents builders getting on sites in the first place. Today’s judgment by the Court of Appeal restores common sense to the system, and ensures that those builders developing smaller sites – including self-builders - don’t face costs that could stop them from building any homes at all.”
He added: “This case was a total waste of taxpayers’ money and the uncertainty the case created amongst housebuilders stalled new development from coming through. I hope councils focus their time and money on delivering the front line service that their residents rely on and helping support new housebuilding in their areas that is very much needed.”
The small sites affordable housing contributions policy was introduced in November 2014 to help boost housing delivery and incentivise brownfield development. It introduced a national threshold of 10 units or fewer (and a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000m2) beneath which affordable housing contributions should not be sought. The policy was introduced to tackle the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small-scale developers, custom and self-builders.
Larger sites have continued to be subject to affordable housing requirements.