hLocal authorities that fail to make adequate supplies of land available for housing development will have to take the consequences after the High Court opened the way for the construction of almost 300 new homes in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Despite environmental objections, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government had approved two development schemes on the basis that Cotswold District Council had ‘a record of persistent under-delivery’ of housing land and that the developments were needed to meet projected unmet demand for new homes in the area.
The Regional Spacial Strategy for the area indicated that 2,022 houses needed to be built in the next five years and a planning inspector, whose reasoning was adopted by the Secretary of State, had added an additional 20 per cent ‘buffer’ to that figure in the light of the Council’s record, lifting the total required to 2,426. Because the Council was only able to show that it had enough land available for 1,711 new homes over the five-year period, the inspector had found a ‘very serious shortfall’.
The Council argued on appeal that the decisions were inconsistent with another inspector’s previous ruling that only a 5 per cent buffer was required. Arguing that the amount of land it had available for housing development had been underestimated, the Council also submitted that the decisions were based upon a misinterpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework.
Dismissing the challenge, however, the Court found that there had clearly been under-delivery of housing land which could be characterised as ‘persistent’. The Court concluded, “The decisions of the Secretary of State are lawful. The inspector, and hence the Secretary of State who adopted her reasoning, correctly interpreted the relevant policy and reached conclusions that were open on the material available. The Secretary of State did not fail to have regard to a material consideration.”