The Woolpit appeal on the 29th September 2018 was ground-breaking insofar that it was the first time that the revised NPPF’s conditions on five-year supply were considered in detail on a development proposal by the Planning Inspectorate. An Inspector allowed an appeal against Mid Suffolk for 49 dwellings in Woolpit.
The main significance of the appeal decision is the confirmation that the burden of proof has been transferred from developer to local authority in proving what should be included in five-year housing supply figures.
The decision and the relevant part of the NPPF that it is based on, revolves around what constitutes ‘deliverable’ supply. Indeed, paragraph 73 defines what a deliverable site is more strictly than the 2012 version. Importantly, the paragraph states that sites that are not major development or have detailed planning permission should be considered deliverable unless proved otherwise. Sites with outline planning permission or allocated in the local authority’s development plans are only deliverable where there is transparent evidence demonstrating that the construction on the site in question will begin in the five-year period.
The Inspector applied the paragraph 73 and found that Mid Suffolk could not prove clearly that 1,244 dwellings with outline permission would come forward in the next five years; the Council’s case was also not helped by the fact that they did not demonstrate a clear consultation process. The Inspector reasoned that:
“Sites with outline planning permission make up a very large proportion of the Council’s claimed supply. The onus is on the Council to provide the clear evidence that each of these sites would start to provide housing completions within 5 years. I accept that there was clear evidence of what was necessary on one site provided in Mr Robert’s evidence and so the 200 dwellings in respect of that site should be added to the Appellant’s supply calculations. As for the other 1,244 dwellings with outline permission, the Council has not even come close to discharging the burden to provide the clear evidence that is needed for it to be able to rely upon those sites”.
As such, the Inspector found that the Council did not have a five-year supply. Combined with the public benefits of the scheme outweighing the possible harm to heritage assets, the appeal was allowed.