In an important decision for developers, a planning inspector’s decision that the lack of affordable homes in the City of York was trumped by the even more acute need for a greater supply of housing land has been upheld by the High Court.
In granting permission for the development of 200 new homes, the inspector had taken into account the impact of the recession on land values. In order to encourage swift development of the site, he waived the usual affordable housing requirement whilst leaving open the possibility that an affordable housing element might be included in the future in the event of improving economic circumstances.
In challenging the inspector’s decision, City of York Council argued that he had given inadequate reasons before reaching ‘irrational’ conclusions. It was submitted that the inspector placed too much emphasis on the developer’s desire to make a profit and, whilst he had observed that it was ‘not the role of the planning system to insure the landowner against loss’, he had effectively done just that.
However, in upholding the inspector’s decision, the Court ruled that he had been entitled to focus on the substantial shortfall of housing land in the City. There was, at best, little more than a four-year supply, inclusive of the site in question. He had also been right to consider the financial viability of the scheme and the likelihood that a requirement for a substantial proportion of social housing would either delay the development or stop it altogether.