Presumption in favour of sustainable development held not to apply outside NPPF para.14
In East Staffordshire BC v SSCLG and Barwood Land  EWHC 2973 (Admin) the High Court (Mr. Justice Green) has held that, contrary to the earlier judgment of Mr. Justice Coulson in Wychavon DC v SSCLG  EWHC 592 (Admin), there is no freestanding presumption in favour of sustainable development outside the circumstances described in para.14 of the Framework.
The Council challenged an inspector’s decision granting permission for housing development on an unallocated site just outside the settlement boundary in Burton-upon-Trent. It was common ground with the developer that the Council had a five-year supply of housing land and that the policies of the Local Plan and that the Local Plan were not out-of-date for any other reason. The inspector therefore accepted that NPPF para.14 was not engaged. However, he decided that permission should nevertheless be granted on the basis that Wychavon had held the presumption to be a material consideration independently of para.14.
The Council argued that the inspector had been led into error by the judgment in Wychavon, which should not be followed. It also argued that, even if the reasoning in even if the reasoning in Wychavon were correct, the inspector still ought to have taken into account the conflict with the development plan as a factor detracting from the alleged sustainability of the development, given the requirement for local plan policies to help secure sustainable development and to be consistent with the presumption.
The judge agreed with the Council and quashed the inspector’s decision accordingly. However, he agreed to grant permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the basis of the importance of his decision for the application of national policy generally and the fact that there are now inconsistent judgments at High Court level.
A copy of the judgment is available here and is reported in Planning Magazine here.
In another case relating to Burton-upon-Trent, the Secretary of State has issued his decision dismissing an appeal for 385 dwellings on another site outside the settlement boundary. In doing so, he rejected the appellant’s case that the Council’s supply of housing land had fallen below 5 years’ and upheld the Council’s case that the conflict with strategic policies of the development plan was such that permission should be refused, in spite of the appellant’s claim that the development was sustainable and that the benefits it would provide by way of provision of land for a new school outweighed any conflict with the local plan strategy.
A copy of the Secretary of State’s decision and the inspector’s report is available here.
John Hunter acted for East Staffordshire Borough Council in both cases.