Royal Borough in landmark new planning policy to make affordable housing viability studies more transparent

Published Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Landmark planning policy approved by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

In a landmark first for a local authority, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has approved a new planning policy that means developers who put in residential planning applications that don't meet the borough's affordable housing target will have to supply fully public, unredacted viability assessments.

Developers are required to include at least 35 per cent of affordable housing in new residential developments in the borough of more than ten new homes. At the moment, developers who say their development isn't economically viable with this level of affordable housing have to supply a viability study, which they can request stays confidential.

The study is then assessed by an independent expert on behalf of the council who makes recommendations to the Planning Board as part of the overall report it considers in relation to the application.

The Royal Borough will now introduce a new list of locally established criteria that sets out what information should be provided when submitting a planning application - which includes the requirement to provide a fully public viability study for residential developments that are proposing less than 35 per cent affordable homes. This will then be published on the Royal Greenwich website, along with all the other documents submitted as part of the planning application.

Councillor Danny Thorpe, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport said: "This is about transparency for local people. Previously, our hands have been tied on affordable housing levels if the viability study showed a development won't work financially with the levels of affordable housing that we want.

"This crucial change means whole process will now be far more transparent - making the viability studies publicly available as part of the planning documents means the Royal Borough and residents alike can see precisely why a developer might claim they cannot meet our affordable housing targets. We believe we're the first local authority in the country to be doing this - looking at policy which insists on these studies being in the public domain."

The policy on viability studies is contained in a list of 39 proposed new locally set criteria that some planning applications may be required to meet, depending on a number of factors such as their size and nature.


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Currently, the Royal Borough relies on the national requirements for validating planning applications. Whilst for some applications this information is adequate, the nature and location of some proposals necessitate the provision of detailed information in support of the application because of the size of the development or the nature of the site.

Any local authority can adopt a 'local list' requesting certain types of supporting information for a planning application, and this is what the Royal Borough of Greenwich is now proposing introducing.

If the policy is adopted, the types of information required will depend upon the type of application. As an example, an open space assessment will only be required for developments on open spaces and a land contamination assessment will only be required on land that is likely to be contaminated. Where policy requirements have not been meet for viability reasons a viability assessment will be required as justification.

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