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DCLG modifies guidance on Vacant Building Credit regime

by on April 23, 2015

The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced changes to the guidance on the vacant building credit (VBC) regime initially introduced in November last year.

The changes confirm that the intention of the VBC is to act as an incentive for brownfield development on sites containing vacant buildings and that it can operate with respect to either the number of affordable housing units or the amount of a financial contribution towards affordable housing.

The revised guidance makes it clear that the regime provides an element of discretion for local planning authorities (LPAs) over the way VBC is applied.

This means that LPAs can consider whether the building was made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment and whether the building was already covered by an existing or recently expired planning permission for a development similar what is now proposed.

The updated advice also sets out the detailed procedure for determining the VBC where there are changes in the gross floor space of vacant buildings on the site, which affect the amount of affordable housing contribution.

When the guidance was originally published some local authorities, particularly in London, opposed the principle of the initiative on the basis that it would significantly reduce the level of affordable housing contributions.

Some local authorities are considering introducing local planning policies to mitigate the impact or establish a local VBC exemption.

George Wilson of planning law specialists Pinsent Masons said: “These changes go some way to alleviating concerns local authorities had when the vacant building credit was first introduced by the Government, but not entirely.

“The amendments provide some flexibility and discretion for the local authorities in the way in which they apply the VBC and in considering whether the VBC would be applied, to encourage genuinely vacant, brownfield sites into use, as is the intention for which the credit was introduced.

“Although the changes have largely been welcomed, we would not be surprised to see further authorities try and introduce blanket exemptions for the credit in their areas and further ‘clarifications’ to the guidance issued,” he said.

View the guidance on the Vacant Building Credit

Roger Milne

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