5 year housing land supply – the domino effect
Like many local authorities in the South East, Eastleigh Borough Council has a bit of a problem in establishing a 5 year housing land supply as required by the NPPF.
In 2012 we acted for a client who owned approximately 6 acres of greenfield land on the urban edge of Eastleigh in Hampshire. The application was in outline for up to 72 dwellings. There were the usual habitat and ecology issues to overcome on such a site and in refusing the application on nine grounds the Council considered that there was a lack of need for the development as they considered they had an adequate 5 year housing land supply.
The appeal was heard shortly before Christmas. By that time, we had successfully dealt with all of the reasons for refusal and at the opening of the Inquiry the Council, in a highly unusual move, supported the appeal and urged the Inspector to grant permission. The Council did not accept that it did not have a 5 year housing land supply but considered that it was not necessary for the issue to be debated as they were now content to support the appeal.
The Inspector took a different view. In a detailed examination of the Council's position, he concluded that with a record of persistent under-delivery, for which the mandatory 20% buffer would be applied to housing figures, and without a clear definition of the Council's housing requirement using the Sedgefield method of calculation, the Council's own figures confirmed that it did not have a 5 year housing land supply. The Inspector did not need to deal with this issue in detail at all given the Council's stance at the appeal hearing but he clearly considered it necessary to do so. At the time of the Inquiry, the Council's new local plan had just started its examination in public. However, in December following the local plan Inspector's finding of unsoundness of the draft local plan on the grounds that it did not provide sufficient housing, the public examination process has been postponed leading to yet further uncertainty about the Council's position on the issue and the increased likelihood that further appeals will be lost. Eastleigh is by no means alone and where a sufficient number of dwellings cannot be substantiated increasingly, Inspectors will be allowing appeals.
There is little doubt that Inspectors, both at local plan and on appeal, are taking a hard line with the inability of some local authorities to deal with the 5 year housing land supply issue.