London mayor will back boroughs who seek affordable housing from small schemes, says official

The London mayor will back boroughs seeking contributions to affordable housing from schemes of less than ten homes, as long as they do it the right way, a London conference was told today.

Greater London Authority strategic planning manager (viability) John Wacher
Greater London Authority strategic planning manager (viability) John Wacher

The 2018 revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework reiterated earlier guidance from 2014 that local planning authorities should not require affordable housing to be delivered on development sites of ten homes or less – unless in exceptional circumstances.

But in September, an inspector declared as sound Reading Borough Council’s proposal to seek an affordable housing contribution equating to 30 per cent of the development value of sites of ten or more homes, a 20 per cent financial contribution from developments of five to nine dwellings, and ten per cent on sites of one to four homes.

Speaking today at the Planning for Housing conference, organised by Planning, Greater London Authority strategic planning manager (viability) John Wacher said that the mayor would be "supportive" of authorities seeking contributions from schemes of fewer than ten homes, as long as they were justified through the local plan.

Planning consultant Gilian Macinnes warned that a policy requirement for affordable housing contributions from small schemes could add a significant administrative burden for planning authorities. But she added: "Some areas only have very small sites, so the only way to achieve affordable housing is to ensure that they are viability-tested at the local plan stage".

Earlier, Macinnes had said that councils were yet to take full advantage of changes made in the 2018 NPPF revisions that should help them ensure more affordable housing is delivered.

These changes included advice that benchmark land values for viability assessments should be based on existing use value, while allowing for a premium to be paid to the landowner, but that market values should not inform such assessments.

"I don’t think the significance of the change has yet been grasped by local planning authorities," said Macinnes.

Philip Barnes, group land and planning director of housebuilder Barratt Developments, said it was too early to judge the impact of the changes.


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