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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 03/03/2003
Possible Review of Affordable Housing Planning Policy






[Wards Affected: All Wards]
Summary and Purpose

This report responds to a request from this Committee to look at Waverley’s Local Plan policy on affordable housing. A few examples of policies elsewhere suggest there is scope to tighten planning policy. At the national level, the Government’s new plan “Sustainable Communities: building for the future” promises to tackle planning policy and affordable housing delivery. Opportunities are also anticipated with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill to be passed early in 2004. At the same time there is concern that Government proposals for capital receipts and Social Housing Grant could mean less money for affordable housing in Waverley. The implications of these changes need urgent investigation. No resource or environmental implications will arise from this report.


1. In November 2002, this Committee considered a report on “Affordable Housing Provision in Waverley”. It explained how the Council is using various means at its disposal to provide affordable housing, and the difficulties encountered (e.g. funding problems and Government-imposed limits to planning policy). The Committee agreed that obstacles to the delivery of affordable housing should be highlighted in a letter to the South East England Regional Assembly which is looking into this issue (see Annexe 1).

2. Concerned that the supply of affordable housing is well short of meeting local need, the Committee also asked officers to look at reviewing planning policy. This was in regard to private developments that include an element of affordable housing (Local Plan Policy H5 – Affordable Housing within Settlements), summarised below:

A minimum 30% affordable housing is required on private housing developments large enough to fall within the site size thresholds.
The minimum requirement is 25% on schemes with a density of 40 dwellings per hectare or more.
In settlements with a population over 3000 (Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere, Cranleigh, Milford) the policy applies to sites of at least 0.5 hectares/15 dwellings.
In settlements with a population below 3000 population the size threshold is 0.2 hectares/5 dwellings.

Scope for review 3. Annexe 2 shows some other authorities’ policies for comparison. There appears to be scope to review Waverley’s current policy:

Settlements with more than 3000 population

4. For settlements of over 3000 population, the minimum site size threshold is governed by Circular 6/98 (Planning and Affordable Housing), and is normally 1 hectare or 25 dwellings. A lower threshold of 0.5 hectares or 15 dwellings can be accepted if there is sufficient justification.

5. Waverley’s 1999 Deposit Draft Local Plan had a threshold of 0.4 hectares/10 dwellings for the larger settlements. This is below the Circular minimum, and the Local Plan Inspector rejected it. He was very clear that it would result in a weak policy constantly open to challenge, and the additional numbers that would be provided were not enough to justify it. Similarly Spelthorne sought a low threshold of 0.1 hectares, but received a Direction from the Secretary of State in December 1999 to comply with the Circular.

6. South Cambridgeshire put forward a threshold of 10 dwellings which was accepted by their Local Plan Inspector, despite it being contrary to the Circular. Furthermore they received no objection from the Government Office for the East in their Proposed Modifications to the Plan in December 1999.

7. A 50% requirement in the larger settlements is rare, but is looking more realistic than it did only a year or so ago.

Settlements with less than 3000 population

8. The Circular does not express a minimum threshold in these small settlements. The strictest policies now emerging have no threshold at all, or a threshold of two dwellings, coupled with a requirement for 50% affordable housing. This effectively means an affordable home for every market home built. This may prove too much of a deterrent to developers, and have a negative effect on supply. Nevertheless the Government’s Rural White Paper (November 2000) encourages this approach in small settlements.

Funding for affordable housing

9. The previous committee report highlighted the concern that if clause 11 of the Local Government Bill remains as per the draft, Waverley could lose up to 75% of its housing capital receipts. This coupled with the proposal to stop reimbursing Local Authority SHG will severely impact on Waverley’s ability to fund affordable housing development.

10. Improvements to planning policy could be rendered useless by a reduction in funding for affordable housing. An announcement is expected in early February. Members will be updated at the meeting.

The Government’s new “Communities Plan”

11. A 22 billion plan to “drive forward thriving and sustainable communities” was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott on 5th February 2003. “Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future” promises 5 billion for social housing, including 1 billion for homes for key workers. It promises reform of policies, finance and partnerships in order to deliver improvements at national, regional and local levels.

12. In the plan the Government says it will “improve the contribution made by good planning to securing affordable homes in our communities”. Existing planning guidance will be updated and supported with practical advice about what works well and where. The Government recognises that almost 80% of housing sites in the South East are less than half a hectare, and will consult local authorities on reducing the site size thresholds.

13. “Sustainable Communities” is published at a time when reform to the planning system is awaited through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill to be introduced in 2004. The Planning Green Paper proposed measures to increase the supply of affordable housing, for example with contributions from commercial as well as residential development.

Resource/environmental and "Opportunities for All" implications

14. There are no resource, environmental or “Opportunities for all” implications from this report.


That opportunities in “Sustainable Communities: building for the future” be investigated, along with the implications of any reductions in funding.


Background Papers (DoPD/DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


Names: Daniel Hawes Telephone: 01483 523295
Policy and Projects Officer E-mail: dhawes@waverley.gov.uk
Planning Department

Karen Novell Telephone: 01483 523096
Housing Enabling Officer E-mail: knovell@waverley.gov.uk
Housing Department

comms/o&s/047 34373