Planning Update: Tilting the balance

The case law has been a muddle on the presumption in favour of sustainable development justifying the grant of planning permission if a Council does not have a 5 year housing land supply and, consequently, its planning policies for the supply of housing are out of date. With three differing interpretations taken in numerous planning appeals and Court cases, it was inevitable the issue would reach the Supreme Court.

The landmark decision has finally arrived in Suffolk Coastal DC v Hopkins Homes and Richborough Estates v Cheshire East BC [2017] UKSC 37 with great hopes of certainty afterwards, but has the muddle been resolved?

The judges stressed that the NPPF is no more than guidance and cannot ‘displace the primacy’ of a statutory development plan of Local Planning Authorities in determining planning applications. The courts should respect the expertise of specialist planning inspectors who are presumed to have understood the policy framework correctly

The operation of the 'tilted balance 'Our view In the Hopkins Homes case, the Inspector correctly adopted a narrow interpretation of the phrase “relevant policies for the supply of housing”, but his decision was quashed; and In the Richborough Estates case, the Inspector erroneously adopted a wide interpretation, but his decision was upheld.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.