District fails in legal bid to quash inspector's three-year supply verdict

An Oxfordshire district council has confirmed that its legal bid to overturn an inspector's ruling that it was unable to demonstrate a three-year supply of housing land has been unsuccessful.

Planning Inspectorate: council's legal bid has been unsuccessful
Planning Inspectorate: council's legal bid has been unsuccessful

In an appeal decision issued in August, inspector John Braithwaite upheld an appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse permission for a 95-home scheme on the 5.6-hectare Thames Farm site at Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames.

South Oxfordshire District Council had refused the application on a number of grounds, including that the site is not allocated for development in the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Development Plan, which includes a policy allocating land for 500 homes.

But in his appeal decision, Braithwaite said that the housing policies in the neighbourhood development plan could not be considered to be up-to-date as he considered the local council to be unable to demonstrate a three-year supply of housing land.

As such, the inspector concluded, the protections in a written ministerial statement issued in December by the former planning minister Gavin Barwell should not apply.

The WMS means that, until 11 December 2018, all neighbourhood plans that are part of the development plan and allocate housing sites will not automatically be deemed out of date, as long as the LPA has a three year housing supply.

Following the appeal decision, local MP John Howell expressed "disappointment and disbelief". He said that he had been assured by the council that, by usual calculations, it has a supply of just over four years.

"The inspector has taken some additional information into account and has decided that [the council] does not have a three-year housing land supply by one house," Howell said.

In September, South Oxfordshire District Council said that it had begun legal proceedings to quash the inspector’s ruling, "on the basis of legal errors in the decision".

But in a statement issued this week, John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "We are disappointed that the council has been refused permission in the first instance to proceed with our application for judicial review in relation to Thames Farm.

"However, we have the right to renew our application and to present our case for this at a hearing, and this is what we shall do."

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