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What Is a ‘Deliverable’ Housing Site? Debate Resolved By High Court Case

Local authorities are likely to find it a good deal easier to satisfy crucial five-year housing land supply targets following an important concession by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government regarding the correct definition of what constitutes a ‘deliverable’ housing site.

Construction siteA developer was refused outline planning consent to construct four new homes on the outskirts of a village. Its appeal against that decision was subsequently upheld by a planning inspector, who granted consent principally on the basis that the local authority did not have in hand a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The council argued that it had a housing land supply sufficient to last 6.03 years, but the developer contended that the correct figure was just 2.88 years. In applying a tilted balance in favour of the development, the inspector found that much of that discrepancy arose from the council’s failure to adhere to the definition of a deliverable housing site in the glossary to the NPPF.

The glossary states that, to be considered deliverable, housing sites ‘should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years’. It goes on to list certain types of site that can be considered deliverable if there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin within five years.

Together with sites enjoying the benefit of full planning permission, the list includes sites with outline consent for major development, sites allocated in a development plan, sites with permission in principle or sites identified on a brownfield register. On the basis that that represented an exhaustive, or closed, list, the inspector found that at least 744 homes had wrongly been included in the council’s housing land supply figures and that its deliverable supply was in the region of 4.28 years.

The council lodged a High Court challenge to the permission but, prior to the case coming to court, the Secretary of State formally conceded that the inspector had erred in his interpretation of the NPPF definition of deliverable. He accepted that the examples given in the glossary are not exhaustive of all the categories of site which are capable of meeting the definition and whether a site is or is not deliverable is a matter of planning judgment to be reached on the evidence available.

The Secretary of State agreed that the inspector’s decision should be quashed and the developer’s planning appeal considered afresh.