John Barrett and Piers Riley-Smith have been involved in a planning appeal concerning the correct application of national policy in relation to Vacant Building Credit (‘VBC’). This is an area where there had previously been no in-depth examination of how local authorities should apply national policy on VBC. One particular issue is that national policy is silent as to how local authorities should define a building as ‘vacant’ for VBC purposes.
In this case the local authority had refused an application to vary a condition requiring affordable housing on the basis that they did not consider the building to be demolished for development to be vacant. The local authority did not have a specific local policy document for how they would apply VBC but instead relied on using their planning judgment to apply national policy by adopting a number of criteria to ascertain whether a building was vacant.
The senior Planning Inspector, in allowing the appeal, examined first the intention of national VBC policy before turning to examine the relevance of the Council’s criteria as well as the commonly argued relevance of the CIL test. Of particular relevance was the Inspector’s conclusion that while VBC was not a ‘blanket policy’ and there existed ‘limited discretion’ for Councils in how to apply it that had to be viewed in light of the Government’s clear intention to incentive brownfield development.
The Appeal Decision is crucial reading for any developers or local authorities grappling with issues surronding the application of VBC.
John Barrett was instructed by Harry Spawton of Gerald Eve on behalf of Andrew Textile Industries Ltd
Piers Riley-Smith was instructed by Sarah Doherty for Bury Metropolitan Borough Council
View the appeal decision here.
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