The council asked for a ten per cent financial contribution towards off-site affordable housing provision, as required by its core strategy. It maintained that the 1,500 affordable homes needed in its area by 2027 would not all be provided on-site within larger housing schemes, so contributions from smaller sites were essential to meet its housing needs.
Using monitoring data, the council sought to show that housing completions on small sites increased dramatically during 2015/16 despite a November 2014 written ministerial statement indicating that affordable housing contributions should not be sought from developments of ten or fewer dwellings. The statement was removed from national policy following the July 2015 High Court ruling in West Berkshire Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, but reinstated following a Court of Appeal judgment this spring.
The council maintained that its affordable housing requirement had made no discernible impact on the viability of small-scale developments. But the inspector found it unclear from the evidence whether the increase in completions shown by the monitoring data was a direct consequence of the ministerial statement or, as the council claimed, had occurred in spite of it.
While according significant weight to the aims of the council’s policy for meeting housing need, he did not agree that it should outweigh government policy. In allowing the appeal, he also held that development of the suburban back garden site would not harm the area’s spacious sylvan character.
Inspector: Patrick Whelan; Written representations