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Policy H9 Vacant building credit

H9

  1. The Vacant Building Credit is unlikely to bring forward additional development in London, therefore in most circumstances, its application will not be appropriate in London. However, there may be some limited circumstances where the credit would, in line with the intention of the credit, provide an incentive for development on sites containing vacant buildings that would not otherwise come forward for development. As part of assessing whether this is the case, decision-makers are advised to take account of the criteria below as well as locally-specific factors influencing the site.
  2. In the limited circumstance where a borough feels the credit should be applied, boroughs are advised to consider applying the credit only where all of the following criteria are met:
    1. the building is not in use at the time the application is submitted
    2. the building is not covered by an extant or recently expired permission
    3. the site is not protected for alternative land use
    4. the building has not been made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment.
  3. To demonstrate that a building has not been made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment, an applicant will be required to demonstrate that it has been vacant for a continuous period of at least five years before the application was submitted and will also be required to provide evidence that the site has been actively marketed for at least two of those five years at realistic prices.

In 2014 the Government introduced a Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which applies to sites where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building. The VBC reduces the requirement for affordable housing contributions based on the amount of vacant floor space being brought back into use or redeveloped. This has significant implications for delivery of affordable housing in London where a high proportion of development is on brownfield land where there are existing buildings.

Decision-makers are encouraged to take account of: the current need for affordable housing in London (both at the local and strategic level); the rate of past delivery against local and strategic targets; the requirement of the NPPF to seek to meet objectively assessed need; the fact that brownfield sites come forward for development without such an incentive; and that procedures are already in place for considering the viability of development where there are barriers to delivery.

It should be noted that if an applicant is claiming that the scheme qualifies for VBC, it cannot also claim Community Infrastructure Levy relief through the vacancy test.

Further guidance is provided in the Affordable Housing and Viability SPG.