Vacant Building Credit (VBC) was introduced in November 2014 and provides an incentive for developers on sites containing vacant buildings. It allows for a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floorspace to be offset against any affordable housing contribution where a vacant building is to be brought back into lawful use, or is to be redeveloped.
However, an update to the guidance in March 2015 has arguably raised more questions than answers. Local authorities are now able to “consider whether the building has been made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment” and “whether the building is covered by an extant or recently expired planning permission for the same or substantially the same development”.
The update clearly gives more power to local authorities to resist application of the credit, and particularly the question of when the building has to be vacant for the credit to apply. It is probable that the CIL vacancy test will be applied to determine this: buildings must have been in use for six continuous months out of the past three years, and then only to the net additional floorspace.
However there is still likely to be argument over whether there is a minimum length of time for a building to be vacant for the credit to apply. In the absence of further clarity, it will be interesting to see how local authorities, appeal inspectors and potentially, the courts, interpret this revision.
Nigel Hawkey , senior consultant FoddyConsult
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