First Homes – is your planning permission safe?


There's a new type of affordable housing in town which planning authorities are required to deliver but seem strangely reluctant to do so.  Will your planning permission be safe?

A written ministerial statement (WMS) was given on 24 May 2021.  This brought in a new affordable housing product called First Homes.  These are discounted housing for first-time buyers from households with a combined annual income under £80,000 (or £90,000 in Greater London).  The discount is at least 30% of market value and the homes are subject to absolute price caps (£250,000, or £420,000 in Greater London). The requirement is for a minimum of 25% of all affordable housing units secured through developer contributions to be First Homes.

Interestingly, this has been brought in via changes to planning policy and the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) and not via statute.  The requirement is for at least 25% of the Affordable Housing to be First Homes in all planning decisions issued since 28 December 2021.  There is a slight wrinkle to this in that where there has been significant pre-application engagement you will not need to provide First Homes if the planning permission is issued before 28 March 2022.

The changes have been made to the PPG and not to the NPPF, however as they have been brought in through a WMS they are changes to the government's national planning policy and so are a material consideration.  In determining planning applications a LPA may decide to override the requirement, but must consider it.  If a scheme subsequently goes to appeal, it is highly likely that an inspector will regard the First Homes policy as being required to be implemented in full.

Where planning permission is granted and First Homes (where relevant) were not considered in the planning application decision process then the permission could be at risk.

So make sure that the LPA has actively considered First Homes and be aware of the deadlines.  If you go to appeal, it is highly likely that First Homes will be required and this may well mean rewriting any section 106 agreement.

If you have any questions or would like to know more then please contact our planning team.

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