Both decisions related to schemes in Cheshire West and Chester, comprising 70 houses at Davenham (DCS Number 200-004-081) and 113 houses near Northwich (DCS Number 200-004-082). The council has a recently adopted local plan that is now free from legal challenge. This sets an annual requirement for 1,100 new houses a year. Based on this figure, plus a shortfall and a 20 per cent buffer, both inspectors concluded that the council could prove a five-year supply.
They both found the proposals contrary to the local plan’s locational requirements, since both were greenfield sites lying outside defined settlement boundaries. However, they granted permission because of the significant social and economic benefits of the proposals arising from the delivery of new market and affordable housing.
The Davenham inspector commented: "While the site is not currently needed in order to ensure an adequate supply of deliverable sites, there is nothing in the National Planning Policy Framework to suggest that the existence of a five-year supply should be regarded as a cap on further development." He noted that policies in the adopted plan set minimum targets for housing.
He went on to focus on the need for affordable housing in the borough: "In this context, and given the need to deliver affordable homes in the area and the fact that recent levels of provision have been below identified requirements, I attach significant weight to the social and economic benefits associated with the proposals."
These are not the first cases in which this approach has been taken. It was first adopted by an inspector on a greenfield site near Launceston in Cornwall in April 2014 (DCS Number 200-001-977), and there have been a few similar decisions since. But with these two decisions, which were issued on the same day last month, this route to permission appears to be gathering pace. They are particularly relevant given that many local plans are now being adopted with housing targets expressed as a minimum, often at a level that does not address affordable housing needs identified in local authorities’ own strategic housing market assessments.
Christopher Young of No5 Chambers acted for the appellant in the Davenham and Launceston appeals