Local authorities are under intense pressure from central government to do their bit in meeting the burgeoning need for more new homes. That was illustrated in one High Court case in which a council succeeded in overturning a planning inspector’s ruling that it did not have in place a five-year supply of available housing land.
The council had refused consent for a development of 57 new homes on the basis that it conflicted with local visual amenity, landscape character and tree preservation policies. However, on appeal, the would-be developer was granted outline planning consent by the inspector on the basis that the project was sustainable. He found that the balance was tilted in favour of the development because of the council’s failure to meet the five-year housing land supply target enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework.
When calculating the area’s housing land supply, the inspector applied a 20 per cent buffer on the basis that there was a record of persistent under-delivery of housing in the area. He also applied a 10 per cent ‘lapse rate’, based on a projection of planning permissions that might not be implemented during the five-year period.
In overturning the inspector’s decision and quashing the consent, the Court noted that he had not mentioned during the public inquiry that he might apply a lapse rate. The council had thus not been afforded a fair opportunity to tackle an issue that was of critical significance to its future prospects of successfully opposing residential development proposals that it considered inappropriate. The inspector’s application of the lapse rate had made the difference between whether or not the council had demonstrated a five-year supply of deliverable housing land.