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Review of Planning Appeal: The tricky task of planning for housing development - Wingerworth Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood Plan silent on housing needs
I previously posted about why it is important to include policies and site allocations for housing, in order to "presumption-proof" your Neighbourhood Plan. A recent planning appeal (APP/R1038/W/17/3192255), which resulted in the granting of planning permission for 180 homes at Wingerworth, Derbyshire, illustrates the importance of making provision for housing development in a Neighbourhood Plan.

North East Derbyshire Council ranks settlements in a hierarchy. Wingerworth is located firmly in the middle of the hierarchy as a "Settlement with good levels of sustainability", so presumably has some merits as a location for housing development.

The Wingerworth Neighbourhood Plan (WNP) successfully passed the referendum stage in June 2018. The WNP includes a number of policies which relate to the provision of housing development, for example:

  • Policy W1 defines a settlement development limit around the built area of Wingerworth village, offering in principle support to development within the settlement limit, subject to meeting a range of criteria.
  • Policy W2 restricts development in the countryside (i.e. outside the settlement limit).
  • Policy W3 supports the development of a minimum of 882 dwellings over the plan period at two sites.
  • Policy W4 supports windfall housing developments within the settlement development limit.
  • Policies W5 and W6 set requirements for housing mix and affordable housing, respectively.

The WNP's strategy for housing appears very clear - the majority of development should take place at  two identified sites, with additional windfall development within the settlement development limit. Development in the countryside is restricted. Unfortunately, this approach did not stand up in a recent appeal decision.

The appeal site is located outside the settlement development limit. The current Local Plan was adopted in 2005, covering a plan period to 2011. At the time of the appeal, North East Derbyshire Council had submitted a draft Local Plan for examination, but the Council and Inspector agreed this carried limited weight. 

The Inspector determined that the housing targets and certain policies in the Local Plan are out of date as they do not meet the district's current housing needs. This includes the Settlement Development Limits, which were intended to address development needs to 2011. The Wingerworth Settlement Development Limit was unchanged by the WNP. The Inspector notes that the Settlement Development Limits and the policies for housing are interlinked - as the housing targets are out of date, the Settlement Development Limits are therefore 'meaningless'.

In discussing the WNP and its 'weight' in determining the appeal, the Inspector concludes that: 
This plan makes no allocations and is therefore silent on housing needs. 
Whilst WNP policy W3 lends its support to the development of two major sites, it does not go as far as actually allocating those sites.

In the case of the WNP, the matter of addressing housing needs appears to have been reserved to the draft Local Plan. No identified housing requirement has been set for the WNP, and the WNP makes no site allocations. Consequently, the Settlement Development Limit carries little weight as it is unclear whether it provides sufficient land to meet housing needs.

To ensure your Neighbourhood Plan provides a robust approach to housing, it is therefore essential to first agree with your local authority the housing requirement your plan must meet. Secondly, your Neighbourhood Plan must set out policies to meet this housing requirement, including by making site allocations.

It can be risky to rely on an emerging Local Plan - plan-preparation could be delayed, or the Local Plan could become out-of-date in the context of the 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'. Your Neighbourhood Plan should stand 'on its own feet'.

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