High Court Sanctions Housing Development in Strategic Green Gap

Local authorities that do not have a five-year supply of available housing land can have developments that they consider undesirable foisted upon them. Exactly that happened in one case concerning controversial plans to build 29 new homes in a green gap between two established settlements.

After the relevant council refused consent for the scheme, the developer successfully appealed to a central government planning inspector, who granted permission despite acknowledging that the development was contrary to a local planning policy that was designed to maintain the rural character of the strategic gap.

In his decision, the inspector observed that the issue as to whether the council had in hand a five-year deliverable supply of housing land was marginal. He applied a tilted balance in favour of the development and found that it was sustainable within the meaning of the National Planning Policy Framework.

In dismissing the council’s challenge to that decision, the High Court noted that the inspector had also found that the harm to the local landscape would be limited and that loss of high-quality farmland would be modest. Certain of the council’s complaints about his decision amounted to excessive legalism and were misconceived. In applying the tilted balance, he was entitled to find that the disadvantages of the development would be outweighed by the benefits.