Landmark ruling for rural housing developments

Planning applictions submitted to Northumberland County Council.

Planning applictions submitted to Northumberland County Council.

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Rural communities will benefit from a landmark ruling in favour of smaller housing developments, says the Rural Services Network.

It comes after two local authorities successfully challenged a Government decision to exempt developers from providing affordable housing on developments with fewer than 10 homes.

Justice David Holgate quashed a number of measures following a High Court challenge by West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council on Friday, July 31.

The Rural Services Network (RSN), which gave a witness statement on behalf of its members, said it was delighted by Justice Holgate’s ruling. RSN chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: “This is a landmark judgment which favours small rural housing developments, and thereby rural communities, the length and breadth of England.”

The RSN had argued that the government’s exemption policy could ‘decimate the provision of rural affordable housing because most sites in villages are small’.

Mr Biggs said: “These planning requirements are the mechanism which delivers most of the new affordable homes in our villages. Without them, families will be priced out of the countryside. There is scant evidence that such planning agreements undermine development site viability and, where local authorities conclude it would, they can already reduce the burden. This judgment endorses our concerns.”

In contesting the Government’s decision, Mr Biggs said the RSN was concerned not just about the processes through which the Government’s decision was reached, but more fundamentally about the impact of the decision itself. Mr Biggs said: “We hope that the Government will reflect on these issues and not appeal the judgment.”

Developers already had the ability to negotiate the number of affordable homes that go on a site, if they could show it would bring into question its financial viability, said Mr Biggs. Such local negotiations, with decisions taken by the local planning authority, were the right approach, rather than having a blanket rule imposed by central government.