Inspector backs Reading's affordable housing requirement for small schemes

Reading Borough Council's local plan, which seeks affordable housing contributions from all new developments regardless of size and requires schemes of ten homes or more to be zero carbon, has been found sound by a planning inspector.

Reading. Image: Flickr / Evgenii
Reading. Image: Flickr / Evgenii

Inspector Louise Gibbons said around 25 per cent of homes built in Reading are on smaller sites and found that "specific local circumstances" existed to support the council’s policy - despite national policy stating that councils should only seek affordable housing contributions from proposals of 11 or more dwellings.

Reading's local plan seeks a 30 per cent affordable housing contribution on sites of ten or more homes and a financial contribution equivalent to 20 per cent from developments of five to nine dwellings and 10 per cent on sites providing between one and four homes.

Main modifications proposed by the inspector include a small increase to the council’s annual housing target. The plan was submitted for examination in March 2018 and proposed a figure of 671 homes per year - compared to an average annual housing target of 532 in the authority’s 2008 core strategy.

Gibbons advised that the figure should be increased to 689 - equating to an overall target of 15,847 homes over the plan period between 2013 and 2036. A shortfall of 230 homes over the plan period is expected to be met by three other west Berkshire authorities, the report said.

The inspector said she was satisfied that Reading had "engaged constructively, actively and on an on-going basis" with its neighbours "and that the duty to co-operate has therefore been met".

Other plan policies include a commitment that all developments of ten homes or more will be expected to be zero carbon.

The plan is due to be formally adopted by members on 4 November after securing the inspector’s backing.

Approval of the plan brings to an end an 18-month examination which saw Reading Borough Council attack the government over "unacceptable" delays in the process.

Tony Page, lead member for planning at the authority, said: "The council’s new policy demands all future housing developments of ten homes or more should be zero carbon, putting it at the cutting edge of authorities across the country and leading by example. 

"The planning inspector has additionally accepted that all sizes of housing site must contribute to desperately-needed affordable housing provisions in Reading, which we have long campaigned for.

"Public examination of the new local plan has run for well over a year but, nevertheless, Reading is the first local authority in Berkshire to reach the approval stage."

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