Harris Lamb Blog – 14th September

 


 

Simon Hawley

14th September, 2010.

How to win a landmark Planning Inquiry

By Simon Hawley, Senior Planner.

Harris Lamb’s superstar planner of the hour talks about his latest success.

 

 

The revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) earlier this year has had significant implications for the planning industry.

It has raised a number of questions in relation to spatial planning and has introduced a considerable degree of uncertainty to the planning process.  One of the most significant implications of the revocation of RSS’s has been the removal of strategic housing targets for local authorities.

When RSS’s were in place they required each local authority in their region to make provision for a set amount of housing.  Local authorities who were unable to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land against this target were expected to treat residential planning applications ‘favourably’ in accordance with the guidance set out in the Government’s Planning Policy Statement 3 – Housing.  Whilst RSS have been removed from the Development Plan system the requirement remains for local authorities to be able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply.  However, without a strategic housing target in place, there is considerable uncertainty about the amount of development each local authority should be providing and, therefore, whether or not they are able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply.

Harris Lamb have, however, recently received an Inspectors Decision which helps to clarify this issue.  In February of this year Harris Lamb had a planning application for a 40 unit residential scheme refused by Wychavon District Council.  At that time the local authority was of the opinion that they were unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply.  That being the case the authority was required to treat the planning application favourably in accordance with the guidance set out in PPS3.  Whilst the Council acknowledged there was a shortfall in housing the planning application was refused on ecological grounds.

The application was subsequently appealed and the Inquiry was held in July.  In the lead up to the Inquiry the ecological issue was resolved; however, the RSS was also removed from the Development Plan.  That being the case the need for housing, and whether the Council had a five year supply of housing land, was considered in detail at the Inquiry.

At the Inquiry the local authority argued that they had not had the opportunity to undertake an assessment to identify their own housing target.  This uncertainty meant that there was no evidence to suggest that the Council did, or did not, not have a five year housing land supply. They therefore did not need to treat the planning application favourably.  Harris Lamb advanced the argument that whilst the removal of RSS had cast some doubt over the Council’s housing land supply position, the requirements for PPS3 remain in place and as such it is necessary to consider whether the Council have a five year housing land supply position in light of the existing guidance.

At the time of the revocation of the RSS a letter from Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner for the Department of Communities and Local Government, (6th July 2010) wrote to every local authority providing advice on the removal of the RSS.  It confirmed that they should still have regard to the advice on housing targets set out in PPS3 and that they may use the housing targets they submitted to the Regional Assembly during the preparation of the RSS if it can be justified (the Option 1 target).  At the Inquiry Harris Lamb presented evidence to show that the local authority were not able to demonstrate a five year land supply in relation to the Option 1 housing target; or in relation to the 2006 Household Projections.

The Inspector agreed with Harris Lamb’s case.  She confirmed that the local authority should have regard to the latest household projections and the Option 1 housing numbers.  Whilst it remained unclear as to what the exact level of housing that the authority would be expected to provide in the future, Wychavon were unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply at the time of the Inquiry.  Consequently, the Inspector decided to approve the planning application.

This decision is potentially helpful in relation to a number of residential schemes.  Where it is clear that the local authority is unable to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land in relation to the household projections or the Option 1 housing target the guidance in PPS3 remains relevant.  Local planning authorities should continue to treat residential planning applications favourably if existing evidence shows that a five year supply of housing land is not available.

 


 

If you wish to discuss any aspects of commercial or residential planning stratergy, please contact Simon on 0121 455 9455 or email  simon.hawley@harrislamb.com