A parish council argued that the district council, in deciding that it could not show the five-year supply of deliverable housing sites required by paragraph 49 of the 2012 NPPF, had adopted a "risk-averse" approach by excluding sites that should have been included in the pipeline. It claimed that this had led the district to wrongly apply the tilted balance in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 14 of the NPPF in granting permission for the housing developments, despite their being contrary to the development plan.
Judge Sir Ross Cranston made clear that the court would not generally interfere with a planning officer’s report written for democratically elected councillors with local knowledge on the basis of hypercritical scrutiny or legalistic analysis. On his reading of the report as a whole, he was satisfied that the planning committee had not been materially misled on the main issues nor about the need to apply the tilted balance due to the absence of a five -year supply of deliverable sites.
Neither did he accept that the district council had been in error in applying the NPPF to what constitutes a deliverable site, since this involved a matter of planning judgement. He rejected the claim that officers had set the evidential threshold for deliverability at an inappropriately high level, requiring a raft of potential sites to be excluded. He held that they had made a proper assessment of whether sites had a realistic prospect of delivering homes, taking into account whether in principle they were suitable, available or viable for development.
East Bergholt Parish Council v Babergh District Council and Others
Date: 7 December 2018
Ref:  EWHC 3400 (Admin)