The Court of Appeal have overturned the decision of Holgate J in West Berkshire v SoS  to quash the Planning Practice Guidance changes which exempted small sites from affordable housing requirements.  More generally, it is an important judgment on the ability of ministers to prepare policy – it can be expressed in unqualified terms without pointing out that exceptions can be made or the presumption in favour of the development plan still applies.

Court Backs government plans to exempt small sites from affordable homes obligations

11 May 2016 by Court reporter

The government has won a legal challenge against a High Court ruling that quashed a national planning policy intended to exempt small sites from affordable housing obligations.

London’s Royal Courts of Justice

The Court of Appeal in London today backed government plans to exempt small development sites from the need to have affordable housing included on them.

Reading Borough Council and its neighbour West Berkshire District Council claimed that the new policy, introduced in a ministerial statement in November 2014, would drastically reduce the amount of affordable housing across the country by more than 20 per cent.

And they claimed that it would have a particular impact in their areas, as well as providing a windfall to landowners and developers.

Reading had claimed that the policy would result in a loss of up to 30 much-needed affordable homes per year in its area, out of a target of 167. And the more rural West Berkshire council said it would lose almost a quarter of its affordable housing under the policy.

In July 2015 Mr Justice Holgate backed their arguments and quashed the policy, which excluded developments of ten homes or fewer, or 1,000 square metres or less, from the requirement to provide or contribute to affordable housing provision.

However, today’s judgement of the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, and Lords Justices Laws and Treacy, which ran to more than 13,000 words, overturned the High Court ruling.

Lord Dyson, backed by two other Lords Justices, upheld all four appeal grounds brought by the government, and reversed Mr Justice Holgate’s decision to quash the policy.

However, the councils’ battle may not be over yet. There is still the possibility the matter could go to the Supreme Court for a further, last ditch appeal, in which today’s decision would be challenged.

West Berkshire District Council & Anr v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: C1/2015/2559