A GOVERNMENT decision means developers will no longer have to provide affordable housing on many smaller rural sites.
Communities minister Brandon Lewis announced the removal of Section 106 agreements from sites of fewer than 10 homes in a written statement to parliament.
It means developers will no longer have to provide affordable housing when building homes on smaller sites.
Mr Lewis said: "Due to the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small-scale developers, for sites of 10-units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought.
"This will also apply to all residential annexes and extensions."
For designated rural areas under section 157 of the Housing Act 1985, which includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, authorities may choose to implement a lower threshold of 5-units or less, beneath which affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought.
This will also apply to all residential annexes and extensions.
Mr Lewis said: "Within these designated areas, if the 5-unit threshold is implemented then payment of affordable housing and tariff style contributions on developments of between 6 to 10 units should also be sought as a cash payment only and be commuted until after completion of units within the development.
"These changes in national planning policy will not apply to rural exception sites which, subject to the local area demonstrating sufficient need, remain available to support the delivery of affordable homes for local people.
"However, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought in relation to residential annexes and extensions."
The Rural Services Network said abandoning the requirement for developers to include affordable housing when building homes on smaller development sites was ill-thought through.
Rural Services Network housing spokesman Andy Dean said: "This decision is huge blow for rural communities. It is very, very disappointing news.
"Affordable housing is key to retaining young people in rural communities and in smaller rural settlements, this is how most new affordable homes are delivered."
The Rural Services Network is calling on the government to reverse the decision which exempts developers on sites with 10 or fewer homes from requirements to include affordable housing - at least, in relation to all rural settlements.
In some rural areas, the exemption will apply to sites with five or fewer homes.
But Mr Dean said: "This is a small concession and the policy could still decimate the provision of rural affordable housing because most sites in villages are small.
"These planning requirements are the mechanism which delivers most of the new affordable homes in our villages. Without them, families will be priced out of the countryside.
"There is scant evidence that such planning agreements undermine development site viability and, where local authorities conclude it would, they can already reduce the burden.
"We have to find a better way to balance the government's desire to encourage small scale builders with the over-riding need to provide affordable homes in rural communities."
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.