The case had a complex evolution. The key issues were:
(1) The existence or otherwise of a 5 year housing land supply;
(2) Whether the site was “urban greenspace” surplus to requirements;
(3) The generation or otherwise of severe residual highways impact; and
(4) Whether the proposal created an unacceptable flood risk.
All the issues were resolved in the Appellant’s favour. The Appellant recovered a full costs award and it is that aspect of matters which is particularly interesting. The Inspector was “astonished” he had to require Blackpool to produce a 5 year housing land supply calculation (the Council signed an SoCG agreeing no 5 year housing land supply but when asked for a calculation of the actual supply claimed it actually had a 5 year housing land supply – the Inspector disagreed). The Council’s failure to co-operate on this issue in the run-up to the Inquiry was the subject of particular criticism. The LPA’s highway case was dismissed as revealing no significant impact when the test was one of severe residual impact and the LPA’s submitted evidence on flooding was said to have only served to illustrate an ignorance of the site itself and/or the work actually carried out by the Appellant. The LPA’s claim of taking a “precautionary approach” was said not to be based on any objective concern.
Full costs awards are rare and for an Inspector to robustly censure an authority is rarer still. It is likely this decision will be relied upon by appellants faced with unevidenced reasons for refusal.
To read the appeal decision, click here and to read the costs decision, click here.