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Ashley Bowes Successfully Defends Housing Figure

Ashley Bowes has successfully represented Charnwood Borough Council to resist an appeal for 195 new units on a Greenfield site at Seagrave Road, Sileby, Leicestershire.

The Inspector dismissed the appeal on all the grounds put forward by the Council, finding that:

(1) The publication of a new Leicestershire Housing & Economic Development Needs Assessment ("HEDNA") did not provide a justifiable basis to depart from the Core Strategy housing requirement figure.

(2) The Council could demonstrate a deliverable five-year supply of housing land.

(3) There was a "crucial conflict" with the Core Strategy, which carried "substantial weight".

(4) The saved policies of the Local Plan were not "out of date" rather carried "moderate weight".

The decision is of wider importance for a number of reasons:

(1) First, it is a useful application of the PPG guidance as to when a departure from a post-NPPF housing requirement might be justified. The Inspector distinguished West Berkshire DC v SSCLG [2016] EWHC 267 (Admin.) from the situation in Charnwood. Further, and importantly, the Inspector found that departing from the Core Strategy just after a year after its adoption would "corrosively undermine the value, confidence and importance of a plan-led system". Finally, he found that there is a balance to be struck between keeping plans up-to-date and delivering certainty by ensuring plans have a "reasonable shelf-life" (the Housing White Paper suggests five years for example).

(2) Second, there is a useful analysis of how to interpret contemporary permissive-style strategic policies. The Inspector found that a reference to "at least" before the housing target for service centres did not open the door to any level of growth. Reasoning that such a "laissez-faire interpretation" of strategic policies could lead to a "harmfully mordant view of whether or not there was a genuinely plan led system ...".

(3) Third, the Inspector applied the recent Court of Appeal judgments in Suffolk Coastal DC v Hopkins Homes Ltd [2016] EWCA Civ. 168 and Daventry DC v SSCLG [2016] EWCA Civ. 1146, to find that saved policies, which included tightly-drawn settlement boundaries, were not inconsistent with the NPPF per se. He accepted the "important point" made by the Council that such policies promote the Core Planning Principle of "efficient, plan-led decision taking", a point the Inspector emphasised carried "some particular force".

The decision can be viewed here.