Planning Appeal: Council’s housing needs’ assessment insufficient

Paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) requires local planning authorities to “boost significantly the supply of housing” by ensuring that their Local Plan meets the “full, objectively assessed needs” for market and affordable housing.

They must identify a supply of specific deliverable sites, enough to provide five years of housing in respect of their housing requirements, plus and extra ‘buffer’ expressed as a percentage.

If they cannot demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites, their policies for the supply of housing must be treated as out-of-date (paragraph 49).

In the High Court case of Cheshire East Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor [2015] , the Council said 1150 dwellings per annum (‘dpa’) were needed for the District based upon evidence which had supported the figures in the now revoked Regional Spatial Strategy (‘RSS’) for the North West of England.

At appeal the Planning Inspector had rejected this and found “little objective and up-to-date evidence to support any need figure significantly below 1350 dpa”, for the following reasons:

a) The RSS figures were based on 2003 household projections and more recent projections were available.

b) The strategy underlying the RSS figures directed growth to the large North Western conurbations making for less growth in the Cheshire East District. 1150 dpa did not even meet the household projections and economic growth of the District at that time. So it was not a “full objectively assessed” figure.

c) In the Council’s own emerging Local Plan, the “full objectively assessed” figure was assessed as 1350 dpa in both the March 2014 Housing Background Paper and Policy PG 1. Though the policy had yet to be publicly examined and might be objected to, so the final adopted figure had not been ascertained yet.

d) In fact, the developer’s evidence indicated that 1800 dpa would be required to address suppressed need and to support the economic growth identified in the emerging Local Plan.

The Court said the Inspector had been within his rights to conclude that the Council had not been able to show that it had a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites for “fully assessed objective needs” of 1350 dpa.

It was a planning judgment which the Inspector was entitled to reach on the evidence before him and the Inspector’s conclusion could not be challenged in court as irrational.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.