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Authority’s Rejection of Housing Supply ‘Standard Methodology’ upheld with Costs

Alexander Booth QC

Following a two week Public Inquiry, the decision by Central Bedfordshire Council to assess its Five Year Housing Land Supply figure (5YHLS) with reference to an Objective Assessment of Need (‘OAN’) rather than the Government’s ‘Standard Methodology’ has been vindicated. 

Indeed, not only did the Inspector dismiss the appeal in his decision letter dated 16 March 2020, regarding proposed development at Land north of Sunderland Road, Sandy, (Ref: APP/P0240/W/18/3219213), but in a costs decision dated 6 April 2020 he made a partial award of costs against the unsuccessful appellant, in light of its conduct in relation to the issue of housing need.

The Planning Inspectorate has now issued six decision-letters regarding Section 78 Appeals in Central Bedfordshire, where its approach to housing need has been ruled upon. All six appeals related to schemes for residential development. In five of these six appeals, including the Sunderland Road proceedings, the Council was represented by Alexander Booth QC. Three were determined by way of Hearing and three by way of Public Inquiry, where expert housing needs and policy evidence were subject to detailed cross-examination. In all six proceedings the Council’s case in respect of Local Housing Need has been upheld, and the appeal dismissed.

The position in Central Bedfordshire is that strategic policies for housing are more than five years old. As such, the NPPF directs that in the context of Section 78 Appeals the question of whether the Council can demonstrate a Five Year Housing Land Supply falls to be determined with reference to the ‘Local Housing Need’. Policy also directs that such need falls to be calculated by means of the Standard Method.

However the Council has contended that the 2014-based Household Projections which the Secretary of State has directed should underpin a Local Housing Need assessment pursuant to the Standard Method, are so inaccurate in Central Bedfordshire that it would be perverse to assess housing supply by reference to that metric. Instead, the Council argued the question of whether it could demonstrate a 5 Year Housing Supply should be determined with reference to OAN.

In each appeal the Inspector has accepted the Council’s position, and determined issues of housing supply with reference to OAN rather than the Standard Method.

Alexander Booth QC represented Central Bedfordshire Council in securing dismissal of the appeal and the partial award of costs.