Following the recent Court of Appeal hearing of SSCLG v West Berkshire & ors, it appears Vacant Building Credit is back on the agenda, with paragraphs 21-23 of the Planning Practice Guidance (23b - Planning Obligations) reappearing unamended yesterday.
The policy (along with other policies in Brandon Lewis’ Ministerial Statement of 28 November 2014, namely the 10-dwelling threshold for affordable housing contributions) had been found to be inconsistent with the statutory code as they sought to override development plan policies. The policies were also deemed to have been the outcome of an unfair consultation exercise and in breach of the public sector equality duty (in relation to which we blogged recently).
However, the Court of Appeal disagreed on all grounds and reversed the decision. They found no issue with the mandatory language used in the statement, emphasising that under planning legislation, decision makers must consider development plan policies against other material considerations, including national policy, but that no primacy or absolute priority need be afforded to a development plan.
Familiar questions re-emerge then with regard to interpretation of the Vacant Building Credit, as we commented on last year. The intentions of the policy are clearer than the practical issues of how it might play out. With the policy now reinstated, we can reassume our interest in this area and await further clarity.
 Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government v West Berkshire District council (1) and Reading Borough Council (2)  EWCA Civ 441