Vacancy credit claim lost on agricultural buildings

Plans for 27 homes outside a Worcestershire town have been approved subject to a 40 per cent affordable contribution after an inspector agreed with the council that the government's vacant building credit (VBC) does not apply to agricultural buildings.

The appellants asserted that a reduced level of affordable housing provision was justified by the VBC policy, which provides a mechanism for offsetting the existing floor area of vacant buildings against a percentage of the policy requirement for affordable dwellings. They asserted that the site, having been used as a farmstead, met the definition of brownfield land in the 2018 NPPF. The council, relying on the 2012 NPPF, claimed that agricultural land and buildings are excluded.

The inspector found that the revised framework does not specifically mention what constitutes brownfield or previously developed land. In his opinion, annex 2 and paragraph 118 of the revised NPPF indicated that previously developed land should be considered as brownfield. On this basis, buildings occupying agricultural land - which by definition is undeveloped - do not qualify for the credit, he found.

In allowing the appeal, he took into account the absence of any real conflict with the development plan. He noted that the site did not occupy an isolated location and that, while it lay within the countryside, the council had not identified what harm would arise from its development. The scheme would deliver open market and affordable housing and result in a tangible improvement to the setting of various heritage assets, he found.

Inspector: David Morgan; Hearing

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