26 March 2015
A planning appeal win last week on five-housing supply grounds could mark a turning point following a recent spate of appeal refusals on the issue. It is also an important decision for residential schemes on employment sites. WYG Director Simon Collier, who acted for the appellant Summerfield Developments (SW) Ltd, looks at the implications.
In recent years, successful appeals that have hinged on the issue of housing supply have hit the headlines. The importance for a council of having five-year housing supply, in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), has been a definite deal breaker. But recent months have seen what appears, from anecdotal evidence, to be a marked downturn in wins for housing developers on the issue in the run-up to the general election.
The decision last week, to allow an appeal for a residential development, seems to buck that trend. Interestingly, it also marks the first appeal to be allowed on the issue in North Somerset, a district that has fiercely resisted more housing. The North Somerset Core Strategy Policy CS13, concerning the scale of housing, was found to be unlawful in 2012, following a legal challenge (University of Bristol v. North Somerset). The judgment required the policy, along with eight others, to be remitted for re-examination which is in progress.
In the appeal case (ref. APP/D0121/A/14/2223975), the proposed site for residential development was an employment site that has been identified for employment in several consecutive Local Plans. The site also falls within the J21EA, one of the five sub-regional Enterprise Areas designated by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. The overall approach of the Core Strategy is very much ‘employment’ led.
Nonetheless, all of these considerations were trumped by the need for the council to demonstrate a five-year supply of both market and affordable housing. The Council had admitted before the Inquiry that it could not demonstrate ‘a Framework compliant supply of housing land’. The Inspector commented that the shortage was significant and contrary to the NPPF’s requirements, in particular for affordable housing for which there were high levels of unmet demand. The Inspector found that the development would provide a much needed contribution to meeting a serious shortage of housing in the district, and would assist in bringing supply closer to what is required by the National Planning Policy Framework.
The decision underlines the primacy of the five-year housing supply requirement in these cases and it will be intriguing to see whether this has implications for other housing proposals in North Somerset. In the long-term, the issue is here to stay. Last week’s Homes for Britain rally showed the depth of public feeling on the housing crisis. House building is high on the political agenda and the main parties appear to remain committed to the NPPF. So developers should be able to safely continue to use the five-year supply issue to their advantage.
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