Welcome to ‘The Source’; the first edition of Gladman Strategic Land’s newsletter. These regular bulletins will provide access to and updates on industry relevant appeal decisions, planning policy and market information.
As the largest user of the planning system in the UK, we constantly keep up-to-date on news, court decisions, government statements and announcements, housebuilder news, important appeal decisions, local plan progress and land sales intelligence, making us the experts to offer some of the most current and interesting information.
We have obtained planning permission for over 2,000 homes on 14 schemes in the last 7 weeks alone, therefore we feel we are well placed to provide comment on housing and planning trends.
5 Years Housing is not a Ceiling
Two recent appeal decisions in Daventry District Council; Weedon and Moulton, appear to support the view that a 5 year supply should not be seen as a bar to prevent more housing approvals, if the adverse impacts of the development do not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. These decisions also highlight the importance of councils maintaining a rolling 5 year housing land supply through the use of their trajectories.
We believe that these decisions reinforce the need for close analysis of not just the 5 years housing land supply but also the forward trajectory to ensure that the supply is capable of being maintained over a longer period. Ultimately if a development is sustainable, where is the harm in permitting it locally?
No OAN = No 5 Year Housing Land Supply
Two recent appeal decisions at Fairford and Spencers Wood have shown that where an up-to-date, NPPF compliant, OAN study is not available, it may not be possible to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing. This could prove particularly problematic for councils who have a post NPPF development plan that was prepared using pre NPPF evidence.
A Spiralling Issue
The Barnwell case (Sudborough, Northamptonshire) refocussed decision makers attention on the importance of the statutory requirements to preserve listed buildings or their setting. Pre-election appeal decisions, and a number issued immediately following the period of purdah, have closely followed the Barnwell judgment, with a number placing determinative weight on the setting of listed churches, particularly their spires. Yet in many cases the spires are already seen against the backdrop of modern housing and development which has grown around the settlement over time.
The decisions at Radford Semele and Bredon also demonstrate the impact that each scheme is sensitive to particular details. Church spires and towers were designed to be seen from distances, yet now this very fact seems to be seen as a constraint preventing the growth and vitality of the settlement that was central to their very existence.
Value does not Equal Popularity
The Leonard Stanley judgment represents the only High Court decision to provide clarity on the term ‘valued landscape’ as set out in the NPPF (paragraph 109). It was the Inspector’s view that:-
‘I have considered the argument, with regard to paragraph 109 of the NPPF, that the site is a ‘valued’ landscape as it is valued by neighbouring residents. I accept that, currently, there is no agreed definition of valued as used in this paragraph. In the absence of any formal guidance on this point, I consider that to be valued would require the site to show some demonstrable physical attribute rather than just popularity. In the absence of any such designation, I find that paragraph 109 is not applicable to the appeal site. Similarly, I have studied footnote 9 to the NPPF but again note that it refers to land designated as an AONB which the appeal site is not.’
A similar approach has been taken by other Inspectors at Spencers Wood and Langford who reached the view that an ordinary field was not capable of being a ‘valued landscape’.
Having reveiwed a number of recent decisions, there now appears to be a great degree of consistency with the Leonard Stanley judgment.
Mid-Year Population Estimates
The mid-year population estimates for 2014 have just been issued; these show the population growth has increased at a greater level than the household projections. The estimates saw a rise from 372,000 persons in 2012/13 to 451,000 persons in 2013/14. In total, the latest population projections (on which the latest household projections are based) have underestimated population growth nationally by 89,000 people. At the local level, the 2012 SNPP (Sub-National Population Projections) underestimated population growth between 2012 and 2014 in 8 out of 9 regions and in around 60% of local authorities.
Read the full report
Tom Baker at Bilfinger GVA says:
‘Whilst the MYE are not a definitive estimate of the population (this comes only from the Census), they provide the best estimates of the current dynamic of the population and should therefore be considered by planners in terms of issues such as housing and education needs.’
Neighbourhood Plans Update
Clarity is being brought on the neighbourhood planning process through two recent judgments.
In the Woodcock case (Sayers Common), Mr Justice Holgate held that paragraph 49 of the NPPF applies to emerging local and neighbourhood plan policies as well as adopted ones. He found that the Secretary of State had failed to apply paragraph 14 of the NPPG appropriately and had not identified how granting the appeal would predetermine issues that were central to the emerging plan.
In Mr Justice Holgate’s opinion, the matters that the Secretary of State found would be predetermined by allowing the appeal, were outside the scope of an NDP examination and therefore could not support a finding of prematurity. Finally, he held that the relevant parts of the plan were unlikely to survive examination because they were inconsistent with the NPPF and so would be unable to support a finding of prematurity.
In the Larkfleet Homes case (Uppingham), the Court of Appeal confirmed an earlier High Court judgment that neighbourhood plans can allocate land for development. This comes as no surprise to most as it can never have been the government’s intention to allow people to shape their communities through neighbourhood planning, but prevent them from allocating the land to achieve this objective.
The judgment also confirmed that rigorous Strategic Environmental Assessment is not needed where this has been undertaken through the local plan process. This potentially has considerable implications for neighbourhood plans which are being prepared in advance of, or indeed instead of, the local plan.
Local Plan Update
PINS latest data (31st May 2015) shows that 8 local plans or core strategies have been found sound:-
Access more information on local plans and their status
House Builder News
2015 continues to be a flourishing year for house builders judging by recent trading statements;
Bovis Homes announced that they completed a record number of new homes in the first half of 2015 in their trading statement to the city on 6 July. The group completed 1,525 legal completions in the first 6 months of the year [to 30 June 2015]. Dave Ritchie, CEO of Bovis, stated ‘this was made possible by the high quality land investments made during the year. We continue to trade well in a positive UK housing market delivering a strong forward sales and build position on our increased number of sales outlets’.
The firm said housing production was 13% ahead of last year helping them to deliver their planned volume growth.
Persimmon Homes reported in their update of 2 July that they had ‘traded well’ during the first half of the year and new home completions rose by 7% against the first six months of 2014. Persimmon’s legal completions were also up; to 6,855 units for the first half of the year to June 2015.
Persimmon acknowledged that they had experienced a downturn securing planning permissions in the run up to the general election but despite that, they opened 122 new sites for sale during the first half of the year and expect to launch a further 125 new sites during the second half of 2015.
Recently Gladman commissioned Rural Solutions to undertake a study into “Effective Spatial Planning – Unlocking the Potential of Rural Areas.” The report builds on many of the hooks and policy drivers in the NPPF and has been sent to all councils in England. It is intended to stimulate discussion and debate whilst also providing information on policy choices that can be explored and developed in new local plans.
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