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Appeal Allowed and Outline Permission Granted following Previous Determination of Appeal and Subsequent Quashing by High Court

Gregory Jones QC
Saira Kabir Sheikh QC

Appeal Ref: APP/X0360/W/15/3097721
Inspector Lesley Coffey BA (Hons) BTP MRTPI
Decision date: 18th September 2018

Cooper Estates Strategic Land Limited’s appeal against Wokingham Borough Council has been allowed and outline permission for 57 residential dwellings granted.  This follows a previous determination of the appeal, which was quashed by the High Court on 21 July 2017.  The Inspector’s decision letter raises a number of interesting points.

Housing Land Supply

The Council’s delivery record was to be assessed against para 73 of the NPPF not the Housing Delivery Test, which does not come into effect until November 2018.

There had been significant under-delivery over the previous three years, but the current Housing Land Supply Statement indicated that there had been 1,122 completions over the last eight months.  This meant that even with no further completions, the requirement figure for 2017/2018 would be met.

The 20% buffer, which is applied in order to improve the prospect of achieving the planned supply, was therefore unnecessary. A 5% buffer was appropriate.

Affordable Housing

There was a “clear mismatch” between the level of need for affordable housing in the Borough and the delivery in recent years.  This explained the departure from the NPPF’s threshold for contributions in Wokingham’s Core Strategy.  In light of the growing need in the Borough, the provision of affordable housing was a significant benefit of the proposal.

Habitats Regulations

The site is within 5km of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA.  The CJEU decision in People Over Wind meant mitigation measures cannot be considered at the screening stage and an appropriate assessment was required.  However, although she considered there to be some merit in the appellant’s argument that the appeal could be distinguished from People Over Wind, since the trigger for an appropriate assessment relates to the project in question, which, in this case, was larger than the scheme alone and included the delivery of a SANG, she rejected it.

However, having carried out an AA, the proposal was not found to have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA, either alone or in combination with other projects.

Planning Balance

The Inspector held that, on the bases that the Council could show a five-year supply and the proposal was subject to an appropriate assessment, the tilted balance within the NPPF was not engaged.

Overall, whilst the appeal site was located outside the defined development limits and would result in some limited localised harm in terms of landscape character and visual impact, the proposed benefits of the scheme in terms of housing, including affordable housing, the SANG and economic benefits, outweighed the conflict with development plan policies.

A copy of the decision letter can be found here.

Gregory Jones QC instructed by Phillips Planning appeared on behalf of Cooper Estates Strategic Land Limited and Saira Kabir Sheikh QC appeared on behalf of Wokingham Borough Council.