With NPPF a year old, many commentators and practitioners are saying that more appeals will be allowed especially in cases where housing land supply falls below five years. The localism flame is seen as not burning quite so brightly. Some recent examples suggest this is correct.
March 27 2013 marks the first birthday of NPPF. This has been billed as a significant date in the planning calendar because from then even up to date plans, adopted under the 2004 Act, fall into the same category as older style and out of date plans and are only to be given “due weight” according to how consistent they are with NPPF. This is the advice contained in Annex 1 of NPPF. Purists will argue that it does not fall to NPPF to downgrade the significance of the development plan – legislation gives it a particular status in planning decisions which is unchanged. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the growing baby NPPF has been reaching milestones even before its first birthday and that trend is surely likely to continue.
One example is in the case of Tewkesbury BC v SSCLG, Comparo and Welbeck Strategic Land, a case decided in February 2013. Here paragraph 49 of NPPF (policies for the supply of housing will be regarded as out of date if there is not a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites) played a prominent part in the grant of planning permission, on appeal, for two proposals together proposing 1,000 new homes. Application of the adopted plan would have ruled the proposals out – but the fact of the low housing supply changed that position. The LPA pleaded prematurity, as their core strategy was emerging, and asked that localism be allowed to inform the decision in due course. The court was not persuaded – and NPPF won the day.
Although in that case the LPA had no 2004 Act plan, the approach will presumably be no different after the 12 month transition in any event even where 2004 Act plans are adopted. With so many LPAs deficient in housing land supply, appeals are bound to increase and even specially designated land will be at risk. This was the case in the recent appeal at Highfield Farm Tetbury where the site was in an area of outstanding natural beauty. A low supply of housing land weighed against the designation and the appeal was allowed. So perhaps The Daily Telegraph’s fears are justified after all.