On 17th March 2016, an eagerly awaited judgement was passed in the case of Richborough Estates Partnerships LLP v Cheshire East Borough Council and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with regards to interpretation of Paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In particular, the meaning of the requirement that ‘relevant policies regarding the supply of housing should not be considered up to date if the local planning authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites’.
There has long been debate over whether a multitude of local plan policies concern the supply of housing, or not, and thus whether such policies should be considered up to date in decision-making.
The Court considered whether ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing’ should be limited only to those policies concerning the amount and distribution of new housing, or if it should include any other development plan policies whose effect is to restrict housing in certain parts of that authority’s area.
The Court found this ‘wider’ interpretation to be the correct one, and that the application of Paragraph 49 applies to all policies whose effect is to influence the supply of housing land by restricting the locations where new housing can go. This would include, for example, settlement boundaries, countryside protection policies, policies for conserving landscapes such as AONBs, policies for the conservation of wildlife and even Green Belt policies.
In the Richborough Estates case the Court allowed the appeal, finding that the Council did not have a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites therefore reducing the weight given to policies concerning housing supply (in this case concerning settlement boundaries and the Green Gap).
The Court’s findings have significant implications with regards to the application of Paragraph 49 of the NPPF in decision-making, and the extent to which a wide range of policies can be considered up to date, or not, in the absence of a five year supply of housing land. No doubt the judgement will find reference in many application and appeal submissions in the coming months.
It must however be remembered that even out of date development plan policies may still command some weight and, in the case of Green Belts and AONBs for example, there also remain specific policies in the NPPF which will still be relevant to the decision. Government support for the protection of the Green Belt remains well publicised.
Read the the full Housing Supply Policies Court of Appeal Judgement document.