DC Casebook: In depth - Homes approved to secure land supply in advance of plan review

After recovering an appeal for up to 200 homes at a site in Essex, the secretary of state has overruled an inspector's recommendation and granted permission to ensure an adequate supply of housing land.

The 4ha site was enclosed by hedgerows. The council had identified the land as part of a long-term reserve for housing that was to be assessed as part of an adopted local plan. It asserted that the site was not specifically allocated for housing development. Although there was less than five years' supply of housing land, it argued that releasing a greenfield site for such significant development would be inappropriate ahead of the local plan review.

It was common ground between the parties that the proposal breached policy because no review of the local plan had been carried out. However, the inspector noted that the site was eminently suitable for residential use, lying close to a town with good communication links. He saw no other objections to the scheme and decided that setting a precedent was not a matter that should be afforded significant weight.

In assessing the planning issues, he gave weight to the fact that the site was not allocated for housing. In his view, it was not a foregone conclusion that it would be so allocated once the council had produced its development plan documents (DPDs). Despite delays in preparing site allocations and other DPDs, he judged it necessary to allow the site to be considered as part of the strategic review. If it were subsequently allocated it would merely have suffered a delay in its development, he reasoned.

The secretary of state disagreed, finding the council's failure to maintain a deliverable supply of housing sites an important consideration. She deemed the rate of house building in the area as being well below that required to meet the regional spatial strategy. The need for housing, including affordable dwellings, outweighed the need to complete preparation of the core strategy and housing allocations, she ruled.

DCS Number 100-058-324

Inspector Andrew Phillipson; Inquiry.


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