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Councils defend their challenge to policy on developer contributions after latest court ruling

Published: Friday, 20th May 2016

West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council unrepentant after Appeal Court judgement overturns High Court ruling…

The two Berkshire councils who challenged government policy over developer contributions for small-scale housing sites were unrepentant this week after an Appeal Court judgment backed the policy after overturning a High Court ruling last year which had gone against the administration.

A clearly jubilant (and relieved) planning minister Brandon Lewis had criticised the planning authorities, West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council, for their action. “This case was a total waste of taxpayers’ money and the uncertainty the case created amongst house builders stalled new development from coming through.

“I hope councils focus their time and money on delivering the front line service that their residents rely on and helping support new house building in their areas that is very much needed.”

The councils had gone to court over the policy which established a threshold for developments which were exempt from providing affordable homes and infrastructure contributions. This was set at schemes for up to five new homes in rural areas, ten in urban locations.

The councils pointed out that over the period the policy was considered inadmissible the councils had received £2.6m for essential infrastructure from developers as well as 16 affordable homes.

Councillor James Fredrickson, West Berkshire’s executive member for legal services, said: “Far from being a waste of taxpayers’ money our judicial review has ensured our ability to secure commitments of more than £1m from developers to provide essential infrastructure across our district.

“The requirement for developers to make contributions on smaller developments has not had a negative impact on planning applications or developments in any way. In fact, we’ve exceeded our expectations and delivered more than 600 new homes in West Berkshire over the last year.

“Both councils remain committed to providing affordable homes and together we are considering our options in light of the Court of Appeal decision.”

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Roger Milne