Council successfully defends 200-home appeal despite 3.95 year supply

10 Mar 2023

Planning and Environment

An Inspector has upheld Wokingham Borough Council’s refusal of outline planning permission for a 200 home scheme, despite the Council having a 3.95 year supply of housing.

In February 2022, housebuilder Mactaggart and Mickel applied for outline planning permission for the development of up to 200 homes on a site adjacent to, but outside, the settlement boundary of the village of Hurst in Berkshire. That application was refused in June 2022 and the developer’s appeal was heard at a well-attended public inquiry that ran for 8 days last month.

Shortly before the inquiry opened, the Council published its annual housing land supply calculation. This revealed that its supply of housing land was 3.95 years, meaning that the appeal would have to be decided under the “tilted balance” applied by paragraph 11 of the NPPF.

One of the Council’s key arguments in the inquiry was that its shortfall in housing land supply needed to be seen in the context of a significant over-delivery of housing compared with the housing requirement in its local plan (more than 2,000 homes or 16%) and when measured against the government’s Housing Delivery Test (a 5-year average of 187%).

Therefore the shortfall was due to more houses coming forward earlier in the plan period than had been anticipated, rather than a failure to “significantly boost the supply of housing” in the borough.

The Council argued that the “tilted balance” should not be applied mechanically and that an exercise of planning judgment – taking into account the underlying reasons for the shortfall – was required.

In dismissing the appeal, the Inspector essentially upheld all of the Council’s arguments.

Crucially, he accepted the Council’s point that it was not “failing in terms of housing provision, but rather … is performing well and managing to boost the supply of housing over that which it planned for”.

He went on to find that although the shortfall in housing land supply was “clearly a matter of concern”, he was not persuaded that this 200-home scheme in the countryside – which conflicted with the development plan’s overall spatial strategy – was “the most sensible or appropriate way to address this issue”.

Overall, the Inspector concluded that, notwithstanding the shortfall in housing land supply, the harms caused by the development significantly and demonstrably outweighed its benefits, meaning that permission had to be refused.

Download a copy of the decision here.

Matt Lewin, a member of Cornerstone Barristers’ planning team, represented the successful local planning authority, Wokingham Borough Council.

The Appellant and Rule 6 Party were represented by Rupert Warren KC and Alex Shattock respectively, both of Landmark Chambers.