Skip to navigation

Letter: Affordable-homes viability-loophole

Sunday, 19 August 2018 14:29

Letter published by West Sussex Gazette 15 August 2018


Affordable-homes viability-loophole not closed by new planning rules

Under the headline ‘New guidance closes the loophole used to reduce affordable housing’; the West Sussex Gazette (August 8) reports Worthing Councillor Jim Deen’s view that the ‘loophole of viability’, has ‘”effectively been closed” by the revised NPPF – and that in consequence “the power to devise what is best for Worthing is rightfully being returned to the planning committee and the Council” and that Adur, Worthing and Arun will be able to achieve up to 30% affordable housing for development above a certain size.

That the Government’s planning rules and ‘viability test’, which have enabled developers to reduce substantially their obligation to provide affordable homes, notably affordable renters, has resulted in a significant undersupply of affordable/social housing, is well documented by Shelter, the Local Government Association and CPRE.

So here’s hoping that Councillor Deen and the West Sussex Gazette’s understanding is correct.

However, the revised NPPF’s stipulation at paragraph 34 that “Plans should set out the contributions expected from development. This should include setting out the levels and types of affordable housing provision required, along with other infrastructure (such as that needed for education, health, transport, flood and water management, green and digital infrastructure)” is caveated with the requirement that “Such policies should not undermine the deliverability of the plan”.

Unfortunately, this caveat provides a significant ‘viability loophole’, which developers will undoubtedly seek to exploit.

Note, too, the stipulation at paragraph 64 that “Where major development involving the provision of housing is proposed, planning policies and decisions should expect at least 10% of the homes to be available for affordable home ownership”. Being well below the local plan requirement for affordable homes in Sussex, usually 30%/35%, this is a potential ‘loophole’ for developers to exploit.

To ensure that the liability loophole really is closed Councils need to lobby MPs and seek to influence the yet-to-be-published new Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) and the guidance therein covering ‘viability’, with which Local Planning Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate and developers will be required to follow.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex

join us

Back to top