Housing or Employment? Which Should Get Planning Priority?

Planning decisions can involve a difficult balance being struck between the equally pressing needs for more jobs and more new homes. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court scotched plans for a large residential development in an area where employment land is at a premium.

Developers proposed to build 510 homes, with 35 per cent of them affordable, a care home and ancillary facilities. Alternatively, they sought planning consent for a 390-home development, with 40 per cent of them affordable, or 25 per cent if they paid £6 million towards the cost of constructing a railway bridge.

Both applications were, however, rejected by the local authority and that decision was later confirmed by a government planning inspector. She found that the council was justifiably concerned that the proposals would lead to a loss of land which had been allocated for employment purposes.

The inspector accepted that new housing would bring important social and economic benefits to the area. However, those advantages were outweighed by the negative impact the proposals would have on the council’s overall spatial strategies for housing, employment and economic development. The council had an adequate supply of land available for residential development over a five-year period and the proposals would have an undesirable urbanising impact.

In dismissing the developers’ challenge to the inspector’s ruling, the Court noted that there was no dispute that the proposals conflicted with the local development plan and the emerging local plan. The inspector had correctly approached the issue of housing land supply before concluding that there was no urgent need for additional sites for residential development in the area. The inspector was also entitled to give little weight to the developers’ offer to fund the bridge.