Barton Farm, Winchester (Cala Group)

After a number of legal challenges and having promoted the Barton Farm site for 14 years, Cala Group’s proposals to build 2,000 homes (including 800 affordable homes) were finally approved by the Secretary of State on 2 October 2012. This decision follows the Coalition’s attempts to boost the housing and construction industries. The scheme was re-determined following the quashing (by consent) by the High Court of the Secretary of State’s original rejection of the scheme. It was held that the Secretary of State had erred in law by rejecting the scheme, which had been recommended by an inspector for approval on the grounds of prematurity in advance of the emerging local development plan, without giving adequate reasons on how Winchester City Council’s emerging core strategy impacted his decision.

Upon re-determination, Mr Pickles attached limited weight to the Local Planning Authority’s (LPA) draft core strategy on the basis that there were a number of outstanding policy issues. In addition, the proposed scheme’s high proportion of affordable homes (40%) and the fact that it was deemed to conform to the NPPF’s “presumption in favour of sustainable development” helped push the scheme through. The LPA has, since the original planning appeal and due to its inability to demonstrate a five year land supply, allocated Barton Farm in its emerging core strategy as a 2,000 residential unit site.

Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon (Bloor Homes/Hallam Land Management)

Following a lengthy battle between Stratford-upon-Avon Planning Authority and joint developers Bloor Homes and Hallam Land Management, the Secretary of State has approved plans to build 800 homes, a primary school and a health centre in Shottery near Stratford-upon-Avon.

This decision sends a strong message to all LPAs who try to refuse consent for housing schemes based on prematurity (in both emerging core strategies and neighbourhood plans) and the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategy housing targets.

Unless there is a reasonable prospect of the draft core strategy being submitted for examination, the LPA is unlikely to succeed with a refusal based on grounds of prematurity. In this case, nine months was not considered to amount to a “reasonable prospect” this would happen. Crucially, LPAs must show that they have a five year land supply (as well as sustained delivery of housing) based on an objective assessment of need. Massaging housing figures through various iterations of the core strategy and then seeking to rely on prematurity as a basis for refusal of consent will not work.

A shortfall in the five year housing land supply was also a decisive factor in other decisions announced by the Secretary of State who consented development in Tewkesbury and Salford.