'Housing supply policies' clarified - but it's not open season for housebuilders

'Housing supply policies' clarified - but it's not open season for housebuilders

John Pugh-Smith of 39 Essex Chambers considers the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd; Richborough Estates Partnership LLP v Cheshire East Borough Council and another, a decision which puts to rest years of controversy.

Background

Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd; Richborough Estates Partnership LLP v Cheshire East Borough Council and another [2016] EWCA Civ 168, [2016] All ER (D) 172 (Mar).

The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, ruled on two conjoined appeals concerning the meaning and effect of paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Among other things, it held that, ‘[relevant] policies for the supply of housing’, meant ‘relevant policies affecting the supply of housing’. A ‘relevant’ policy was simply a policy relevant to the application for planning permission before the decision-maker, relevant either because it was a policy relating specifically to the provision of new housing in the local planning authority's area or because it bore upon the principle of the site in question being developed for housing.

What is the background to this case?

NPPF14 contains a presumption in favour of granting planning permission for sustainable development which either accords with the statutory development plan or where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date. NPPF49 advises that:

‘“[…]relevant policies for the supply of housing” should not be considered up-to-date if a local planning authority (“LPA”) cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites’.

The decision puts to rest years of controversy, played out in numerous planning appeals and a confusing series of High Court judgments, as to whether a ‘narrow’ interpretation should be taken of this phrase in which the words are construed as meaning ‘relevant policies providing for the amount and distribution of new housing development and the allocation of sites for such development’ or the so-called ‘intermediat

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