Leeds property news: High Court reverses government plan on small builders

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Small house builders are being unfairly penalised by building regulations which force them to contribute to off-site schemes, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned.

The warning follows a high court ruling which reversed Government plans to relax building rules for small schemes, effectively allowing small house builders to avoid having to build a number of low cost homes in their schemes, described by housing minister Brandon Lewis as a “disproportionate burden” when constructing small sites.

But councils said two-thirds of existing planning applications had since been withdrawn and were being resubmitted to allow builders to take advantage of the new rules. The high court ruling was described as “embarrassing” for the Government.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “This decision threatens to accentuate the housing crisis by casting a dark cloud on small local builders at just the time when these firms are beginning to show signs of growth. In the 1980s, there were more than 10,000 small and medium-sized (SME) house builders in the UK building two thirds of all new homes. There are now fewer than 2,500 SME and between them they build less than one third of new homes. This will push up demands on small house builders to unprecedented levels. Only a few years ago, planning guidance contained a national indicative minimum site size threshold of 15 dwellings for affordable contributions. As such, the Government’s decision last year to move back to a 10 unit threshold was hardly unreasonable. I would urge the Government to stand its ground - it is not appropriate to impose the same obligations applied to large multi-million pound developments and the smallest of developments.”