Housing Land Supply – ‘Deliverable’ Does Not Mean Definite

Local authorities are required to have in place a five-year supply of deliverable sites for new housing – but that does not mean that they have to prove that relevant sites will certainly be developed. The Court of Appeal made that point in scotching plans for hundreds of new homes on land earmarked for employment purposes.

A developer had been refused planning consent to build up to 510 new homes on parcels of land that measured 38 hectares in total. That decision was confirmed by a government planning inspector, following a 20-day public inquiry, and subsequently by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

In challenging the refusal, the developer argued that there was an urgent need for more housing, particularly affordable homes, in the area. Given its record of only delivering about 1,000 new homes per year, there was said to be real doubt as to whether the council could meet its target of providing almost 15,000 new homes over a five-year period. Those and other arguments were, however, rejected by the High Court.

In dismissing the developer’s appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the inspector was entitled to prefer the council’s estimate of deliverable housing sites over that put forward by the developer. Certainty could not be achieved in a fluid housing market and the council was not required to establish that sites that it viewed as deliverable would definitely be developed.

The inspector had not misinterpreted or misapplied planning policies that require local authorities to significantly boost housing land supply. The proposals would have led to substantial loss of employment land and, on a fair-minded reading of her decision, the inspector was entitled to conclude that the adverse effects of the development would significantly outweigh the benefits.

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