The area’s local plan had been adopted in 1997 and relevant policies in it were saved by the secretary of state in 2007. The local plan sought to focus development on a main town and then on four villages, provided it was restricted to infill. The appeal site lay on the edge of one of these villages.
The council claimed that the scheme was in direct conflict with the local plan because it did not comprise infill development and lay outside the settlement boundary. The appellant argued that the local plan policies should be given reduced weight because they were of some vintage and had been adopted in the context of a structure plan that had since been abolished.
Despite finding an adequate supply of housing land in the area, the inspector (DCS Number 200-003-713) decided that the relevant local plan policies were inconsistent with the NPPF, adopted in 2012. He gave the conflict with the infill and countryside policies only moderate weight, but substantial weight to the provision of open market and in particular affordable housing. The scheme complied with the local plan when read as a whole, he held.
In the High Court, Mrs Justice Lang found that the inspector had failed to examine whether the relevant policies were inconsistent with the NPPF. They were not necessarily inconsistent with national policy simply because they had been adopted a number of years earlier, she reasoned. She noted that the decision letter made no reference to the key requirements of paragraph 215 of the framework, which sets out the process by which the weight accorded to development plan policies adopted before 2012 should be assessed.
Lord Justice Sales found no flaw in the High Court ruling. Abolition of the structure plan did not mean that its underlying objectives, including the need to protect the countryside and direct development to larger centres, ceased to exist, he held. He agreed that the inspector had not adequately explained why he was giving the local plan policies, which remained part of the development plan, only moderate weight or why the scheme complied with the plan as a whole.
The judge saw a significant public interest in having plan-led planning decisions and reasoned that some policies are not time limited but find support in subsequent iterations of planning policy at local and national level. He found no merit in the developer’s argument that the local plan policies, if applied with rigour and without exceptions, would render the council unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land.
Where the council had granted planning permission for housing developments in the countryside, he continued, it appeared to have adopted the conventional approach of examining whether material considerations outweighed conflict with the development plan. He found nothing inappropriate in including these sites within the five-year supply.
The fact that the council could demonstrate that adequate housing land was available suggested that the local plan policies were effective and should be given the weight accorded under section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the court concluded. It dismissed the developer’s challenge, meaning that the inspector’s decision remains with the secretary of state for redetermination.
Gladman Developments Ltd v Daventry District Council
Date: 23 November 2016
Ref:  EWCA Civ 1146