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West Berks and Reading councils in wait for verdict in affordable homes High Court case

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Developers now exempt from affordable housing obligations for developments of 10 homes or less

A HIGH Court judge will give a delayed written decision on whether developers should be able to exclude affordable homes from developments of 10 dwellings or less.

It follows a case brought by West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council after changes to planning laws, announced in November, gave developers the right to provide no affordable homes in developments of 10 dwellings or less.

The Berkshire councils went up against communities and local government minister Eric Pickles and claimed the changes were "illogical" and "unjustified".

However, top barrister Richard Drabble QC, representing the secretary of state, told judge Mr Justice Holgate today (Wednesday, May 6) that the policy was a good one, adding that it would help small developers and encourage more small developments.

Because of the funding rules relating to affordable housing "there is a strong disincentive to pursue the release of small sites," he said. "The change to policy was a good thing, a good idea.

"You have a problem when small sites are not readily available and small developers are in decline."

However the council's barrister David Forsdick QC claimed that the policy changes would squeeze councils' budgets and reduce the number of affordable homes that could be built.

He added that the policy was unnecessary because there were rules already in place that stop the costs of affordable housing provisions from making small developments unviable.

He quoted statistics, saying that more than 20% of housing development in England and Wales are built on plots of ten houses or less.

The new policy, he said, would could cost more than £690 million a year, the equivalent of 2,500 houses.

The complexity and importance of the case saw the judge reserve judgment and it will instead be given in writing at a date not yet confirmed.

When the case ends the judge is expected to reserve his judgment and give it in writing later.

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