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  • Affordable homes policy 'could threaten smaller schemes'

    Developer John Fisher says the requirement for affordable homes on small developments could threaten the viability – and therefore deliverability – of those schemes.

    Mr Fisher, managing director of Thames Valley housebuilder T A Fisher, says small developers seeking to maintain a high threshold of quality could find it difficult to incorporate both affordable houses and developer infrastructure contributions on smaller projects.

    Government changes to national planning policy have sought to prevent local authorities asking for contributions towards infrastructure and affordable housing on developments of 10 dwellings or less.

    This was challenged in court last year by Reading and West Berkshire councils which initially succeeded but then lost on appeal.

    However, the Court of Appeal stated that ‘local circumstances may justify lower (or no) thresholds as an exception to the national policy’.

    Reading Borough Council, which has a shortage of affordable homes, has successfully argued at a number of appeals, that it is one such exception.

    Reading’s lead councillor for strategic, environment, planning and transport, Cllr Tony Page said at a meeting on April 4 that volume developers ‘liked cheap and cheerful’ and that the council would fight them at appeals.

    Mr Fisher has empathy with Reading Borough Council’s stance but argues that those seeking to build small numbers of quality homes would find the obligation to provide infrastructure contributions along with affordable homes on such small schemes, exceedingly difficult to absorb in viability terms.

    Mr Fisher said: “There is scope on larger greenfield developments to accommodate a fair and reasonable affordable housing obligation however directly schemes fall below a certain threshold there are risks that may well prevent those developments coming forward and frustrating the delivery of much needed housing that would otherwise come forward; that scenario is surely undesirable for everyone.

    “By insisting upon the delivery of affordable homes and infrastructure contributions on small sites against Government guidance, these local authorities are potentially limiting the delivery of new homes by the small/medium housebuilders who produce really good quality designs, to a high standard and build them in a sensible timescale.”