Council Statement – Ministerial statement 28 November 2014 and appeal decision Vashlyn, Kelsalls Lane, Copthorne
The Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP issued a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) on 28 November announcing that Local Authorities should not request affordable housing contributions on sites of 10 units or less (and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 m/2), or 5 units or less in designated protected rural areas, the aim being to boost housing supply on smaller sites by removing “burdensome obligations”.
This statement and the subsequent adoption into the National Planning Practice Guidance is a material consideration that the Local Planning Authority now has to take into consideration and is clearly at odds with Shropshire’s adopted Core Strategy (Policy CS11) which requires that all new open market residential development makes an appropriate contribution to the provision of affordable housing.
A report was submitted to the Cabinet of the Council on the 21 January 2015 and the Council’s unanimous decision was to take into account the WMS as a material planning consideration but to continue to apply the adopted Core Strategy and SPD.
The Council notes that the High Court is currently considering its judgement in the judicial review of the WMS brought by West Berks/Reading Councils, which may further inform Shropshire Council’s position.
A recent appeal decision (APP/L3245/A/14/2218662 - Vashlyn, Kelsalls Lane, Copthorne, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY3 8LU, unexpectedly considered and commented on the Councils position which has since been widely propagated as a defining judgement. This is arguable and these are overly simplistic and subjective views on a decision where the Council had not provided detailed narrative, evidence or reasoning as the applicant had agreed to the Affordable Housing Contribution and was not challenging the Council on this particular issue.
The Council considers therefore that although this is an important case, it is not a binding precedent and it is a potentially flawed decision against which the Council is considering a formal challenge. As a consequence, the Council’s current position, based upon a robust policy position endorsed by Cabinet, will continue.
The Copthorne planning decision and subsequent public observations from various self interests have added considerable uncertainty and hesitation into the planning approval process that the Council is considering options to address as a matter of urgency.
In the event that after a full examination of the Council’s position, an Appeal or Judicial Review challenge leads to the Council changing its current stance, it is important to note that resolutions to approve that are subject to outstanding s106 agreements at that time, will have to be fully reconsidered afresh by Council in light of current local and national policies.