Editor's pick: Homes rejected as need assessment accepted

After examining a Northamptonshire council's approach to assessment of future housing needs, an inspector has determined that a development of 95 homes is not required to meet housing land supply requirements

A spatial strategy adopted in 2008 that set out the housing requirement for the housing market area (HMA) had been informed by the revoked regional spatial strategy. Both parties agreed that the figures were out of date. A joint planning unit was preparing a replacement plan that would specify the amount of new housing required, and a draft interim housing statement (IHS) had been published and consulted on,.

The appellant sought to undermine the robustness of this analysis and the suggested distribution of homes between local authority areas. The inspector found that the IHS included a range of economic forecasts, trend-based projections and employment datasets that had been carefully reviewed and provided an adequate link between jobs and housing.

Although it did not include a detailed assessment of market signals, she noted that government planning practice guidance (PPG) on land availability assessments does not set out a prescriptive list of factors that should be taken into account. She noted that some market signals considered relevant were included in the statement. The level of need calculated by the council was not unreasonable, she concluded.

The appellant also criticised the distribution of housing between the four constituent parts of the HMA. In the inspector's opinion, it was reasonable for this distribution to be based on policies in the existing development plan, since it was not claimed that these were out of date or conflicted with national planning policy. As the council could demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and the proposed dwellings would be located outside the settlement boundary, she decided that they would result in unacceptable development in the countryside.

The council was awarded partial costs over the appellant's submission of a rebuttal proof of evidence shortly before the inquiry opened. This proof dealt with matters that the council had raised in its own rebuttal proofs. In the inspector's opinion, the appellant’s statement was a "step too far" and should have focused on commenting on the council’s main proofs of evidence. The actual inquiry was the proper place to address the other party’s rebuttal evidence and the appellant's action had led to an adjournment which justified a partial costs award to the council, she ruled.

Inspector: Jessica Graham; Inquiry

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