Richmond Council will continue to push for affordable housing financial contributions from every residential development that applies for planning permission.
The announcement follows an apology from the Planning Inspectorate, which has acknowledged that its inspectors had made inconsistent judgements on a number of appeal decisions in the borough.
It is Council policy that every residential development in the borough, including new build and redevelopments for schemes from ranging upwards from one new flat or house, as well as conversions and reversions, should contribute towards affordable housing.
However, in 2014, in a written Government Ministerial Statement, Brandon Lewis MP set out that contributions for affordable housing should not be sought on schemes comprising fewer than ten residential units.
Richmond Council considered the Ministerial Statement; however, as it is not a formal Government policy and due to the strong and robust local evidence and justification that support the local policy, Richmond Council continued applying its own policy.
A number of developers, whose schemes were refused on affordable housing policy grounds, challenged the Council on why they were still being asked for contributions and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. There were however inconsistent decisions by the Planning Inspectorate, with some inspectors ruling in favour of the Council, and some against the Council, resulting in two occasions in costs being awarded against the Council.
Richmond Council complained to the Planning Inspectorate late last year. In their response this week they agreed that some of their inspectors had made an error in approach and judgement. They have now apologised and confirmed that the Government Written Statement was not to reduce the weight that should be given to the local planning policies. The Inspectors that previously ruled in favour of the Council have acted correctly by considering the local evidence of affordable housing need, and they have given this significant and substantial weight which outweighed the Written Statement.
As a result of this apology and clarification, Richmond will therefore continue to strive for affordable housing contributions from all relevant development applications.
Cllr Pamela Fleming, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, said:
“This borough is challenging when it comes to affordable housing. Indeed, high values, protected open space and Government policy means that finding new sites is hard.
“There continues to be an acute need for affordable housing in Richmond upon Thames, as anybody attempting to get on the property ladder will testify. We are investing money and land into affordable developments, and it is only right and fair that all developments are assessed to see if they are viable to contribute towards affordable housing.