Local authorities that do not have in hand a five-year supply of deliverable sites for new homes are likely to have residential developments that they consider harmful foisted upon them. Exactly that happened in a High Court case concerning a proposal to build up to 50 new homes on the outskirts of a rural village.
Outline planning permission for the project was refused by the local council, but was granted after the would-be developers appealed to a planning inspector. She took that course despite finding that the development would conflict with local planning policy and cause some harm both to an area of outstanding natural beauty and to the locale’s character and appearance.
The inspector found that the proposal would bring significant benefits, not least in providing much-needed affordable homes. However, the decisive factor was her finding that the council’s current deliverable supply of housing land would only last 1.82 years. She viewed that figure as deeply concerning when compared to the five-year supply target enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework.
In dismissing the council’s challenge to that outcome, the Court rejected arguments that, when calculating future housing land supply, the inspector was obliged to take into account that, in the preceding nine years, the council had exceeded its housing targets by more than 1,000 homes. In removing that past over-provision from the equation, she was entitled to take the view that residential sites that had already been developed could not be viewed as deliverable.
The Court stopped short of finding that a past over-supply of housing can never be taken into account. Even had the inspector done so, however, the council’s supply of deliverable housing land would still have fallen narrowly short of the five-year target. Given her concern about the trajectory of the council’s ongoing supply of residential development sites, the inspector’s exercise of her planning judgment could not be characterised as irrational.