In a blog last year, our colleague Lisa Cham commented on several cases in which the absence of a proven five-year supply of housing land in authorities' Local Plans resulted in the grant of planning permission on appeal for major residential development due to the application of the NPPF presumption in favour of sustainable development. The conclusion from those decisions could well have been that local authorities will be in a much stronger position on appeal if they can demonstrate a five-year housing supply.

However, permission has recently been granted on appeal for four schemes comprising 140 homes in Sevenoaks in Kent despite Sevenoaks District Council's core strategy containing a five-year housing supply. The approach to the allocation for housing in the district was held to be out-of-date because the core strategy had been formulated prior to NPPF guidance becoming part of the decision-making process. This was a material consideration which, together with the need for housing in the area and the presumption in favour of sustainable development, led the inspector to allow the appeal. This is in line with paragraph 14 of the NPPF, which states that permission should be granted where policies are out of date unless adverse impacts would outweigh the benefits or specific NPPF policies indicate that the development should be restricted.

The inspector commented that the NPPF has changed the emphasis in the approach to assessing housing need, requiring that authorities use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets full, objectively assessed housing need. Local authorities with pre-NPPF local plans, which have not since carried out an objective housing needs assessment, may therefore struggle to call the shots over residential development in their area.