Land on East Side of Green Road, Woolpit, Suffolk

by Ed Dade

Posted on Feb. 7, 2022

The Woolpit case has shaped how a LPA's housing land supply is calculated from 'deliverable' sites.

This review of a planning appeal decision forms part of a series of 'micro-blog posts' - see Introduction to Planning Appeals Micro-blog Series for more information.

Key learning points:

  • The Woolpit case clarifies matters relevant to the calculation of a local planning authority's five-year housing land supply.
  • Only sites which meet the national policy definition of 'deliverable' at the five-year housing land supply base date should be included in the calculation - no adjustment should be made to account for sites approved after the base date.
  • Sites with 'resolution to grant planning permission' at the base date on non-allocated sites do not fall within the national policy definition of 'deliverable' and therefore should be excluded from the five-year supply calculation.
  • The 'burden of proof' to demonstrate that sites with outline permission are deliverable lies with the local planning authority.
  • The government's Planning Practice Guidance decribes the types of evidence which the LPA should use to demonstrate a site is deliverable. The guidance places great emphasis on the need to consult developers as part of this evidence-collection.

Review of Inspector's Report

Appeal ref: 3194926 Land on East Side of Green Road, Woolpit, Suffolk, IP30 9RF (decision date: 9/28/2018)

NB. The decision pre-dates publication of the current NPPF 2021 - the decision was made in the context of the NPPF 2018.

The appeal was allowed and planning permission was granted for the erection of 49 dwellings (including 17 affordable dwellings) and construction of a new access.

At the time of the appeal, the Council’s strategic policy for housing numbers was more than five years old and had not been reviewed. The 'standard method' was applied for calculating local housing need. No under supply/previous under delivery is taken into account when using the standard method.

National policy provides specific guidance in relation to the calculation of the five-year supply - including defining whcih sites qualify as "deliverable" for the purposes of land supply calculations.

In summary national policy states, small sites and those with detailed permission should be considered deliverable until permission expires unless there is clear evidence that they will not be delivered.

Sites with outline permission, or those sites that have been allocated, should only be considered deliverable where there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin on sites within five years. The onus is on the LPA to provide that clear evidence for outline planning permissions and allocated sites.

The definition of `deliverable’ in the Glossary to the NPPF does not relate to or include sites that were not the subject of an allocation but had a resolution to grant within the period assessed. In other words, if a site does not have planning permission and is not allocated in a plan or brownfield land register, it should not be included in the land supply calculation - even if the LPA has resolved to grant planning pemission at the base date (e.g. approval subject to signing a s106 agreement containing planning obligations).

The Council’s supply of deliverable sites should only include sites that fall within the definition of deliverable at the end of the period of the assessment (i.e. the 'base date' for the five-year housing land supply calculation). In the Woolpit case, the Council erred by including sites which received planning permission after the cut–off date. This skewed the data by overinflating the supply without a corresponding adjustment of need, and were subsequently removed from the land supply calculation by the Inspector.

Sites with outline planning permission made 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. For 1,244 dwellings with outline permission, the Council did "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".

The PPG summarises the evidence that a site with outline planning permission is expected to have in support of its inclusion in the supply. The PPG places great weight on the adequacy and sufficiency of consultation with those responsible for delivering dwellings. The Council failed to adequately demonstrate it has done so. and falls substantially short of producing the evidence that a LPA is expected to produce.

The Council provided additional information to demonstrate that sites are deliverable in an attempt at retrospective justification. It is wholly inadequate to have a land supply based upon assertion. Consequently, the Inspector revised the Council's land supply down to below the five-year threshold.

Referring appeals

From my analysis of Inspector's Reports (since 2015), the Woolpit case has been cited more times than any other planning appeal - I have identified 71 appeal decisions which make reference to the appeal case. This includes the following cases (hyperlinked to Planning Inspectorate's case search):

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