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Is the way we look at housing land supply changing?
23 May 2017

Over the past few months Robinson & Hall have observed a step change in the importance of achieving a 5 year supply of housing and the way in which paragraphs 14 and 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should operate.

Historically there has been an inclination for decision makers to only consider policies that include the word ‘housing’ as housing policies. Similarly, many have fallen into the trap of ‘4.99 years’ worth of housing, settlement boundary switched off. 5.01 years’ worth of housing, settlement boundary switched back on again’. There have, however, been several national and local cases that suggest planning officers, inspectors and the courts alike see the operation of paragraphs 14 and 49 of the NPPF as something a little more fluid.

This has all been brought to a head following the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on how punitive the NPPF should be in the event that a local authority defaults on its 5 year supply and exactly what comprises a housing policy to be rendered ‘out-of-date’ in such instances.

In brief, the Supreme Court suggests that when interpreting what comprises a ‘relevant policy for the supply of housing’ we need to be far less legalistic and literal in our approach. Rather than consider whether specific policies, such as settlement boundaries or green space designations, encourage or unduly restrict housing it is more important to consider the requirements of paragraph 47 of the NPPF – that local authorities have an obligation to significantly boost the supply of housing. If a local planning authority is failing in its duty to do so then the weight to be attributed to its development plan in general weakens. After all, planning law dictates that the policies of the development plan should be considered as a whole.

There have also been two interesting cases locally, in Bedford Borough and Milton Keynes. An appeal for 70 homes was allowed on land outside the settlement boundary at Whitworth Way, Wilstead, even though the Inspector considered that Bedford Borough could show a marginal supply above the 5 year threshold. Similarly, Milton Keynes’ own officers recommended the approval of an application for 14 homes outside the settlement boundary of Lavendon, despite the fact that they could demonstrate 5.05 years of supply (albeit the application was refused by Members). In both instances reference was made to the fact that both Councils have to do more to ‘boost’ their supply. Whether they were above and below the 5 year line was considered immaterial.

In short it appears that the central message of paragraphs 14, 47 and 49 of the NPPF is to ensure that where Councils are able to deliver housing in a sustainable manner then they should consider doing so. Less arguing about what comprises a housing policy and more focus on how we can deliver the homes themselves.

Do you want to discuss what the impact of this shift in thinking around housing mean for you? At Robinson & Hall we constantly monitor emerging policy issues to ensure we can deliver the best advice to clients. Contact one of our experts below.

Call or email Andrew Barr on

01234 362926

Call or email Alex Munro on

01234 362891

Call or email Sarah Kasparian on

01234 362913

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