Editor's pick: Witness concessions on land supply support urban extension

A development of up to 200 dwellings in Cheshire has been approved after an inspector noted the concessions made by the local authority's planning witness regarding housing land supply.

200-003-057 (Image Credit: Tyler Grange LLP)
200-003-057 (Image Credit: Tyler Grange LLP)

The council claimed that an adequate supply of housing land could be demonstrated but its planning witness in cross-examination had made various concessions. These included an acceptance that a full and objective assessment of housing need had not been inadequately justified and market signals such as the requirement for more affordable housing had not been adequately taken into account. In acknowledging these concessions the council’s advocate asserted that they were misplaced and stated that the council maintained its claim that an adequate supply of housing was available.

In reviewing the evidence the inspector agreed that the circumstances of the appeal were unusual and complex but held that a five-year supply of housing land could not be demonstrated. Given the comprehensive nature of concessions made by the council’s witness she ruled that there was little merit in calling the appellant’s housing land supply expert. In future it would be open to the council to produce professional witnesses to support its formal position that an adequate supply of housing land was available should other appeals come forward. Whilst the scheme would involve development in the countryside some impact on its character would result but the benefits to nature conservation and access to a town centre meant that the balance lay in granting permission.

In allowing the appeal the inspector decided that no award of costs should be made in favour of the appellant. Notwithstanding the unexpected concessions on housing land supply the council made clear that the oral evidence of the witness did not represent its formal position. In her opinion the council had adequately taken into account previous appeal decisions and the circumstances and evidence of the appeal were different from others within the local authority area. Consequently, no unreasonable behaviour had been demonstrated.

Inspector: Diane Lewis; Inquiry

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