Legal Assistants (Litigation and Planning)
Planning obligations "still most effective mechanism for affordable housing delivery" PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 January 2012 00:00

Planning obligations will remain the most effective mechanism for delivering affordable housing on site and in mixed and balanced communities, the Planning Officers’ Society has said.

The claim was made in the Society’s response to a government consultation on the funding of affordable housing through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Graham Jones, Vice-President Emeritus of POS and principal author of its response, said: “S106 agreements for affordable housing have in general significant advantages over CIL in that they can deliver sites and can be negotiated with developers to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome.

“However local circumstances will vary considerably and where local authorities have sites available, or where housing development is typically on many small sites, local authorities should have the flexibility to decide how CIL and S106 can best be utilised to deliver the best outcome."

The Society said it would reject the option of CIL being the only mechanism for delivering affordable housing.

“The ability to use obligations in this respect is critical to delivering local and national policy,” it argued. “However, in some circumstances the levy could provide much needed monies. Having the choice could therefore be of benefit in some circumstances.”

The response added that, should local authorities be permitted to use both instruments, there was a need for transparency and fairness, and a need for processes which are straightforward, practical and manageable.

The Society said it did not agree that this would be best achieved through the local plan, because of the timescales involved and the different tests applied to local plans and CIL at examination.

“It would not seem appropriate that a single aspect of CIL should be tested against soundness at LP examination while all other aspects are required only to be reasonable,” the response said.

“How an authority is to apply CIL/S106 in response to affordable housing will also have implications for its CIL charging schedule rates which are tested at the CIL examination. It would seem more straightforward and more relevant if this was a part of the CIL examination.”

The Society argued that the use of CIL/S106 obligations was an implementation issue, and while the authority's approach needed to be based on and consistent with policy as set out in the local plan there was “no need for it to be a part of the plan itself”.

On the issue of whether – if the levy can be used for affordable housing – affordable housing should be excluded from the regulation that limits pooling of planning obligations or the same limits should apply, the POS said it should be excluded.

“To only allow five affordable housing contributions would severely restrict authorities’ flexibility to deliver affordable housing,” the Society said.

A copy of the Society’s response, which also covers its views on the neighbourhood funds part of the consultation, can be downloaded here.


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