Adoption of NSC Affordable Housing SPD

Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel, 19th May 2008 – Item 5.3

Adoption of NSC Affordable Housing SPD

Issues from Executive Meeting 15th April 2008





Digital TV installation (Appendix 7 P.97)

The appendix refers to a number of specification requirements for new RSL provision. In this case it is important that appropriate cabling , connection points etc are installed to enable residents to access digital TV reception when the existing analogue transmissions end. The cost of service itself (either via Freeview/Freesat box or from a satellite provider such as Sky) will remain the responsibility of the individual resident

Clarify the item with revised wording and amend Appendix 7 accordingly:


Provide ducts, cabling and connection points to enable installation of digital TV systems






Central Heating installation – use of condensing boilers

(Appendix 7 P.97)

It is currently normal practice among RSL partners to specify modern gas-fired condensing boilers which do not require an immersion heater. However there may be situations where other systems are used to meet energy efficiency criteria.

The Housing Corporation’s current requirements are based on achieving Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 but this does not dictate a specific type of installation.

Retain reference to immersion heaters where traditional boilers are specified


No change to text.

Installation of letter boxes to front doors

(Appendix 7 P.97)

Letter boxes are normally specified by RSL partners for all front doors along with door bells and numbers and this should be included as suggested

Add following reference to letter boxes and amend Appendix 7 accordingly:


Provide a door bell, door number and letter box to the front door


Balance of social rented and intermediate (low cost home ownership) provision

(SPD P.10)

The current 75% rent /25% intermediate balance reflects the results of the Bramley 2005 Housing Need and Affordability Assessment undertaken on behalf of the West of England authorities.  This underpinned the policies of the adopted Replacement Local Plan to which this SPD relates, and was tested through the public inquiry process. It is also in line with the balance of Regional Housing Strategy and the Housing Corporation’s 2008/2011 National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP). For RSLs working in North Somerset to access the required investment from the NAHP it is essential that NSC policy is consistent with the local needs evidence. 

Retain current 75% rent /25% intermediate balance in Affordable Housing SPD.  The Core Strategy will review the policy context, taking into account updated information emerging from the new Bramley Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for the West of England Housing Market Area (available in summer/ autumn 2008).


No change to text.

Criteria for obtaining financial contributions (also described as commuted sums) from developers towards off-site provision of affordable homes.

(SPD P.12 & Appendix 7)

The Council’s policy is based on national policy guidance (PPS3) which specifies that in normal circumstances affordable housing should be provided in the form of completed affordable homes on the application site. Only in exceptional circumstances are financial contributions towards off-site provision considered where a sound and detailed case is made for example in relation to the type or location of development involved. Such contributions are then used in the form of grant aid to other RSL schemes either involving new build development or acquisition/conversion of existing property

No change to SPD text.


Continue to invest any off-site financial contributions to assist new affordable provision in accordance with any agreed conditions and normal approval procedures.

Identify opportunities to use off-site contributions in conjunction with Housing Corporation funding where possible to deliver local priorities such as supported housing.

Definition of housing need in relation to rural schemes and use of ‘cascade’ arrangements

(SPD P.14 )

Any applicant for affordable housing is required to be accepted onto the council’s Housing Register. The North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (paragraph 8.51 ) sets out specific S106 ‘cascade’ criteria covering the priority to be given to particular categories within local communities where rural exceptions schemes are concerned. Some schemes eg Northleaze are subject to local lettings criteria agreed in connection with the sale of NSC land.


No change to SPD text


Retain varying arrangements for allocations based on need relating to location and type of scheme.

Review operation of cascade criteria in relation to introduction of Choice-Based lettings and Core Strategy.


Use of gross or net number of dwellings to be provided in any development when deciding whether a scheme reaches the 15-dwelling threshold at and above which a 30% affordable contribution is required.

(SPD P.8 & NSRLP Policy H/4)

Objections were received through the SPD consultation process to the Council’s proposed use of gross dwelling numbers when considering whether or not an affordable housing contribution was required.


This relates to Replacement Local Plan Policy H/4 which refers to the Council seeking to negotiate 30% affordable housing “from all suitable sites for new housing developments of 15 or more dwellings”.  Neither the policy nor the supporting text makes any reference to whether this is a gross or net figure.  Similarly there is nothing in national advice which provides clear guidance.  While most authorities use net figures, some, such as Oxford City, use gross.


For example, if a developer proposes 15 new dwellings after demolishing 3 existing houses then applying net figures would mean that no affordable housing contribution would be required (net gain of 12).  The draft SPD however suggested that in order to ensure the delivery of mixed and balanced communities that gross figures should be used.  In this example using gross figures the site would meet the affordable housing threshold and we would seek to negotiate 15 x 30% affordable housing.


Having considered representations to the draft SPD, it was recommended to Executive that while gross figures are used to determine whether or not a site fell within the 15 dwelling affordable housing threshold, that the 30% affordable housing contribution should be applied on a net basis.  In this example the site is eligible for an affordable housing contribution, but the Council would only seek 12 x 30% affordable housing.


In practice, very few applications are received to which the net/gross issue would apply.  Since 2000 there appears to have been only 1 application where this approach could potentially have made a difference - but this was approved before the 15 dwelling threshold was adopted.


It is clear that North Somerset has assessed planning applications on the basis of net figures – but the purpose of the SPD is to clarify the approach.


Given that development control practice has been to assess sites on a net basis, and that very few sites are likely to come forward where this is an issue, it is recommended that the SPD is amended to refer to net figures when assessing whether sites are eligible for affordable housing contributions.


Revise SPD by amending Section 5 to refer to net dwelling figures and revise the worked example accordingly.