Planning: Council’s assessment of housing needs was unduly “policy on” and so insufficient

On housing, the National Planning Policy Framework (“the NPPF”) differed from the earlier national guidance in two major respects:

1. Consistent with the Localism Act 2011, the NPPF substituted localism for the regional, “top down”, approach to housing strategy, with planning authorities now being required to cooperate with neighbouring authorities to develop housing strategy themselves.

2. The NPPF emphasised the need to significantly increase the supply of housing. Paragraph 47 of the NPPF requires a two-step approach: first, an objective assessment of full needs for market and affordable housing (“FOAN”) (“policy off”), and then secondly a distinct assessment as to whether (and, if so, to what extent) other NPPF policies – including those designed to protect the environment – dictate or justify constraint in planned housing provision (“policy on”).

In Oadby and Wigston Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor [2015 the Council’s adopted Oadby & Wigston Core Strategy Development Plan Document arrived at housing needs figures which it said were “policy off”.

The Council’s justification for not adopting a FOAN figure incorporating housing needs based on employment projections had been that those needs could be met by increased commuting, coupled with increased housing in the nearby authority of Leicester City for those commuters.

In this case, the developer successfully challenged the Plan as failing to provide an accurate projection of 5 years’ housing supply needs, as required by NPPF, because this was in fact a “policy on” decision by the Council not to meet an element of identified need for housing in the Borough and there was no evidence that that need would in fact be satisfied in any adjacent authority.

Rejecting the Council’s attempt to overturn the developer’s planning permission granted on appeal, the High Court said the Inspector had been right – and, certainly, entitled – to conclude that the Council’s figures for housing requirements for Oadby & Wigston were “policy on” and thus not the appropriate figures to take for the FOAN housing requirement for the relevant five year period. So the Inspector had been entitled to approach the issue of five-year housing land supply on the basis that the FOAN – and thus the relevant housing requirement – was no less than 147 dwellings per annum.

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