High Court rejects challenge to London Plan affordable rent policy

Out-Law News | 26 Mar 2014 | 4:31 pm | 1 min. read

Mayor of London Boris Johnson's recent amendments to the London Plan preventing boroughs from setting affordable rent caps were lawful , a High Court judge has ruled.

The judge yesterday dismissed a challenge brought by nine London boroughs, including Islington, Tower Hamlets and Southwark.

The London Plan contains provisions which allow developers to charge up to 80% of market rent for affordable homes. Under the Mayor's early minor alterations to the Plan, which were approved by the London Assembly in September last year, boroughs within the capital are prevented from setting individual rent caps or targets for affordable rented homes in their local development frameworks.

The boroughs claimed that the restrictions on imposing rent caps in local policies would prevent them from complying with requirements to meet objectively assessed housing needs set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

However, the judge said that the Mayor was "exercising his statutory powers to make a series of policy and planning judgments" when making the amendments. She said it was "unarguable" that the Mayor's strategy was "so misguided or flawed" that it would effectively prevent the boroughs from making appropriate provision for affordable rented housing.

"I accept that the strategy may be open to legitimate criticism, but it is plainly within the band of reasonableness," she said.

The judge noted that the NPPF does not "speak either for or against local rent caps". "Nor does it prevent the (Mayor) from adopting a London-wide policy against rent caps with which local boroughs must comply," she said.

She added that there were other ways in which the boroughs "can and should" use their evidence base to ensure their local plans meet objectively assessed needs for affordable housing.

"It is not the Court’s role to decide upon the respective merits of the conflicting views of the parties on how best to implement the objectives of the NPPF. These are policy issues. I am satisfied that the (Mayor’s) strategy is not contrary to the terms of the NPPF or otherwise unlawful," she concluded.

"There is a need right across London to keep rents down in new affordable housing so that people on low incomes can actually afford it," said Islington Council's executive member for housing and development James Murray in a statement.

"The judgement does recognise that boroughs can keep fighting for lower rent levels in individual developments, particularly where there’s no funding from the Mayor, and so it looks like there will be many more battles to come," he said.