High Court Opens Way for City Housing Development ‘Without Delay’

In the interests of future flexibility, local authorities often understandably wish to keep housing land in reserve for longer-term development. However, as a High Court case showed, the pressing need for more new homes is such that delay cannot always be justified.

The case concerned a proposal to build 55 homes on part of an 11-hectare edge-of-city site which had been designated by a local authority as a protected area of search (PAS). That designation meant that the site would be kept in hand with a view to maintaining Green Belt boundaries and leaving room for the city’s expansion in years to come. The council’s policy was that only temporary developments would be permitted on such sites pending further consideration of their future use as part of an ongoing review of the city’s development plan.

In granting outline permission, however, a government planning inspector attached little weight to the conflict between the PAS policy and the proposed development. Ruling the project sustainable, he said that it largely accorded with the existing development plan and that consent should be granted without delay.

In dismissing the council’s challenge to that decision, the Court noted that it did not dispute that it was unable to demonstrate that it had a deliverable five-year supply of available housing land. In finding that the development would be sustainable, the inspector had carefully considered traffic flows, highway safety and air quality issues. He had made no bones about the conflict between the development and the PAS policy and there was nothing irrational or erroneous in his properly reasoned conclusion that that factor deserved little weight.