Saturday, 1 August 2015

Reading & W Berks councils unite & win a small victory against government housing policy

In good news a small, but significant victory has been won against a piece of government housing policy so absurd that that well known bastion of the loony left* West Berkshire council went to court alongside Reading Borough council to stop it.

It comes to something when the government is not only massively cutting grants and preventing councils from building homes  but also stopping entirely sensible and reasonable contribution towards infrastructure from developers.  Fortunately the court agreed with the councils and it's a tiny victory for communities in Berkshire (and across the country) who want to see a better approach to development - homes that have basic infrastructure provided.

It is however a tiny victory and as in so many areas we face 5 years of the government making extreme and radical changes to the country with little thought for the unintended consequences.  This will take us in a direction that will permanently change the nature of our society.

It makes me more determined that Labour needs to mobilise to prevent any more years of opposition.   I will blog on this at some point I am sure.

*For those not local this is very over done sarcasm

Council press release:

In January this year West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council joined forces to challenge the Government on changes to the planning system which significantly reduced the ability of the authorities to ask developers to provide much needed affordable housing.
Mr Justice Holgate handed down his judgement earlier today and found in favour of the councils. In doing so, the Judge quashed numerous paragraphs contained in national planning practice guidance.
Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council challenged the proposals by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to limit the use of Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 so that it could continue to be used to seek contributions from developments under 10 dwellings in urban areas and five dwellings in rural areas in order to mitigate the harm of developments on local infrastructure such as highways and education and to provide affordable housing.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading’s lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “This judgement is excellent news not just for Reading and West Berkshire councils but for all the people looking for affordable places to live.
“There is an acute and increasing need for affordable homes in Reading, which is demonstrated by the fact there are around 10,000 people on our housing waiting list, and the changes to the planning system would have made matters worse.
“The judge’s decision also means an estimated £650,000 per year will be saved for community benefit, including improvements to local roads, schools and playgrounds.”
Alan Law, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Planning said: “The decision to legally challenge the Government on this issue was not taken lightly.
“The judgement handed down today confirms that the Council were fully justified in challenging this policy change in order to deliver much needed affordable housing and safeguard funding for critical infrastructure such as education. This was a concern for Council and by joining with Reading it was demonstrated that this issue was a cross party concern.
“Our Core Strategy, fully endorsed by the Government’s Planning Inspector at a comprehensive set of hearings in 2012, allowed us to seek an affordable housing contribution on sites of 5 dwellings or more.”
Hilary Cole, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Housing said: “This was a significant victory and I’d like to thank the planning and legal teams for their hard work. They put a good case together and, although it was a tough decision to judicially review the government, the decision proves we were right to do so.
“We also worked very closely with Reading Borough Council and I’d also like to thank them and the other local authorities who leant their support to us.”