The Planning Inspectorate has allowed an appeal against the decision of Mid Suffolk District Council (the “Council”) to refuse planning permission for 49 new dwellings in Woolpit, Suffolk. The decision is a significant one as it is the first to consider the provisions in the new National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) relating to five-year housing supply. It indicates that the burden of proof for establishing what should be included in the supply figures has shifted from the developer to the local planning authority.

Context

Paragraph 73 of the revised NPPF, published on 24 July 2018. states that:

“Local planning authorities should identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide a minimum of five years’ worth of housing against their housing requirements set out in adopted strategic policies.”

The new NPPF defines a “deliverable” site in more stringent terms than the 2012 version of the NPPF. Sites that are not major development, and sites with detailed planning permission, should be considered deliverable unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. However, sites with outline planning permission, permission in principle, allocated in the development plan or identified on a brownfield register should only be considered deliverable where there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin on site within five years.

The Appeal decision

The decision states that:

  • Sites with outline permission should only be considered “deliverable” where there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin on sites within five years.
  • The onus is on the local planning authority to provide such clear evidence for outline planning permissions.

The Planning Inspector rejected the Council’s attempts to include 1,244 dwellings with outline planning permission in its claimed housing land supply, stating that “the Council has not even come close to discharging the burden to provide clear evidence” that those sites were deliverable. The Inspector was also critical of the Council’s consultation procedure and the assessment of supply in its annual monitoring report.

Permission for the 49 dwellings was therefore granted by the Inspector

Comment 

The decision of one Inspector does not bind other Inspectors or the High Court, but this decision is a boon to housing developers and suggests the start of a trend. Local planning authorities across the country that considered themselves to have a robust housing supply under the previous version of the NPPF will have to work much harder to demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing supply in the future.