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Affordable Housing Contributions - A change in the rules... except in Shropshire?

Posted by on Friday, May 29, 2015

At the end of November 2014 the government published the response to a consultation relating to Planning Contributions and Section 106 Planning Obligations in England and Wales. The result of which was to change the requirements of what builders would have to contribute on smaller development sites. However, Shropshire Council have taken a different view.

Response to Consultation and Minister's Statement

The consultation took forward the Government’s 2013 Autumn Statement commitment to consult on a proposed new 10-unit threshold for section 106 affordable housing contributions within national policy to reduce planning costs to developers. The Government considered that such charges can place a disproportionate burden on small scale developers, including those wishing to build their own homes, and prevent the delivery of much needed, small scale housing sites.

In a Written Ministerial Statement on 28 November 2014, Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, announced that the Government was making a number of changes to the national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) with regard to Section 106 planning obligations. These included the introduction of a threshold beneath which affordable housing contributions should not be sought.

After careful consideration of the responses the Government announced changing national policy with regard to section 106 planning obligations. The conclusion reached was that "due to the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small scale developers, for sites of 10-units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1000 square metres, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought. This will also apply to all residential annexes and extensions".

Shropshire Council Cabinet

However, Shropshire Council, who were one of the first Local Authorities in the Country to introduce Affordable Housing Contributions and the Community Infrastructure Levy following the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, have decided that the need for Affordable Housing Contributions will continue.

The Council's Cabinet met on 21st January 2015 to consider the consequences of the Minister's report and the proposed changes. The Shropshire Council website states that "Following the decision of the Council’s Cabinet to continue to give full weight to Policy CS11 of the adopted Core Strategy and the Type and Affordability of Housing SPD the Council will continue to seek provision of on-site affordable housing and/or affordable housing contributions for all residential developments of 10 dwellings or less within the Shropshire area and will continue to require developers to enter into s.106 agreements for this purpose."

The Current Position

This apparent disregard of the Minister's Statement and changes to the National Planning Policy have caused some discontent with local Planning Consultants, developers and self-builders. Shropshire has been left in limbo with some developers forging ahead and signing up to Affordable Housing Contributions on smaller developments in order to get planning permissions granted and move forward with their business. Meanwhile other developers and self-builders are waiting to see if the Council will change their view in line with the National Planning Policy.

At the time of writing there has not been an appeal against Shropshire Council's decision yet. Needless to say, the Planning community of Shropshire is waiting to see who the Planning Inspectorate will side with when they are asked to judge this issue.

13.04.2015

Update 

29th May 2015
Planning Appeal decision on 14th May directly challenged the Council's position and they have released the following statement in response:-
Following the Cabinet decision of 21 January 2015 to continue to apply the provisions of the Council’s Type and Affordability of Housing SPD the Council has now received an appeal decision which gives some consideration to the issue. The Council is currently taking advice on the decision and will need to put the agreement on hold. Due to the potential impact of the findings of the appeal the Council is considering its position before proceeding with any outstanding planning applications where there is a s.106 agreement for affordable housing which is affected by the threshold in the Ministerial Statement of 28th November 2014 and the National Planning Practice Guidance on planning obligations.

Residential Tenancy Deposits - Are you up to date?

Posted by on Friday, May 15, 2015

New rules regarding Tenancy Deposits came into force on 26 March 2015. The new provisions are summarised below.

No need to re-serve the Prescribed Information on renewals

The Prescribed Information now only needs to be served at the commencement of the first letting of a Property by a Landlord to a Tenant. If a fixed term tenancy comes to an end and becomes periodic, or is renewed, the Prescribed Information does not need to be served again. This removes an administrative burden from Landlords.

Deposits taken before 6 April 2007

There are two new provisions affecting deposits taken before 6 April 2007, the date when the Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation came into force.

Where a deposit was taken prior to 6 April 2007, and the tenancy became periodic after that date, the deposit must be protected in an authorised scheme. Landlords have until 23 June 2015 to attend to this, if they have not done so already. The deposit will then be treated as having always been protected. Financial penalties will apply if the deposit is not registered by that date and the Landlord will be unable to serve a valid Section 21 Notice to obtain possession of the Property.

Where a deposit was taken prior to 6 April 2007, and the tenancy became periodic before that date, the deposit does not have to be protected. However, if the Landlord wishes to serve a Section 21 Notice, the deposit must be protected or returned to the Tenant.

A greater role for Agents

If a Letting Agent has dealt with protection of the deposit on behalf of the Landlord, the Letting Agent’s own contact details can now be recorded in the Prescribed Information, rather than the Landlord’s.

Summary

We are now in a position where all tenancy deposits need to be registered. There is greater clarity as to when the Prescribed Information needs to be served. Landlords should review their portfolios to make sure that they have complied with the legislation. The consequences of a failure to comply are significant: a Landlord may incur financial penalties and will be unable to serve a valid Section 21 Notice.