City of London voices opposition to vacant building credit

The City of London Corporation has joined Westminster City Council in voicing its opposition to the government's new vacant building credit, warning that the policy could mean it loses around £8 million a year in affordable housing contributions.

City of London: stated opposition to vacant building credit (image: Michael Garnett, Flickr)
City of London: stated opposition to vacant building credit (image: Michael Garnett, Flickr)

The vacant building credit, introduced last November, reduces planning gain liabilities on vacant stock.

Revised planning practice guidance says where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use or demolished for replacement, the developer should be offered a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of "relevant" vacant buildings in the local authority’s calculation of any affordable housing contribution to be sought.

Westminster City Council has already voiced its opposition to the credit. Its deputy leader Robert Davis said that the policy "has serious implications, as it threatens our capability to deliver much-needed housing in central London".

Now, the City of London Corporation has joined Westminster City Council in expressing its concerns about the policy.

A meeting of the corporation's planning and transportation committee this week resolved to authorise officers to look into making the case that the credit should not apply to the City of London.

Members also resolved to work with other London boroughs affected by the changes to seek a reversal of the policy.

The City of London’s chief planning officer, Annie Hampson, said: "As London continues to face a crisis in the provision of affordable housing, it is concerning that these rules will reduce significantly the ability of local authorities to provide additional affordable housing."

The Westminster Property Association has also warned over the policy, saying that it could erode the ability of people from a wide range of backgrounds to live in the centre of the capital and "result in yet more office space being lost to homes in central London".

Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds called this week for the policy to be scrapped.

She said: "The Tories’ housing policies are now in chaos. It’s quite something when those who might benefit the most from this ill-thought through policy are calling for it to be scrapped, citing the impact on young people and families that need affordable housing."

But planning minister Brandon Lewis said: "It was crazy to be levying a tax on empty and redundant buildings being brought into productive use.

"Such stealth taxes hindered regeneration and encouraged more empty properties. Our changes will help deliver more housing at no cost to the taxpayer in both London and across England.

"This is part of a package of measures by the government to reduce the number of empty buildings across the country, which is good for both the environment and for society."

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