Planning Inspector’s Rejection of Housing Project ‘Inconsistent’, Court Rules

ConstructionConsistency is the mark of good official decision-making and that is particularly so in the context of planning decisions. The High Court made that point in breathing new life into a proposal to build 135 new homes on the outskirts of a market town.

The local authority had refused to grant planning permission for the development and that decision was subsequently backed by a government planning inspector following a public inquiry. The would-be developer’s challenge to the latter ruling hinged on a local planning policy which sought to place strict limits on housing developments outside the boundaries of existing settlements.

The developer argued that the policy reflected an outdated view of real housing need in the area. The inspector, however, had ruled that the policy’s underlying objectives still held good and that it was not out of date. He had given moderate weight to the policy and declined to apply a tilted balance in favour of the development.

In upholding the developer’s challenge to the inspector’s decision, the Court noted that an earlier planning appeal, concerning another proposed housing development in the same local authority area, had resulted in a ruling that the policy was out of date. In those circumstances, the inspector had been obliged to explain why he had reached the opposite conclusion on precisely the same issue.

The inspector had failed to provide anything like adequate reasons for distinguishing or departing from the earlier decision. He had also failed to grapple with the issue of whether strict adherence to the policy would frustrate the council’s ability to achieve a five-year supply of deliverable housing land. The inspector’s decision was quashed and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was directed to consider the developer’s appeal afresh.