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Local Housing Need – National Policy Regarding ‘Standard Method’ Dis-applied in Central Bedfordshire

Alexander Booth QC

The Planning Inspectorate has recently issued two decision-letters regarding Section 78 Appeals in Central Bedfordshire.

The two appeals, both of which related to schemes for residential development, were dismissed – see Ref: APP/P0240/W/18/3206495: Land west of New Road, Clifton SG17 5JH, decision dated 25 June 2019, and Ref: APP/P0240/W/18/3218992: Land at Clophill Road, Maulden, Bedford, MK45 2AA, decision dated 10 July 2019.

The decisions were notable for the way in which the Inspectors approached the issue of Local Housing Need.

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.

In both appeals listed above, the Council recognised that it could not demonstrate a Five Year Housing Supply against a Local Housing Need target calculated by means of the Standard Method. However the Council 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 the Objective Assessment of Need (‘OAN’) which it had commissioned.

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

These decisions are amongst the first, if not the very first instances where Planning Inspectors have elected to depart from national policy regarding application of the Standard Method in the context of Section 78 Appeals, since the amendments to the NPPF were effected in February this year.

Alexander Booth QC represented Central Bedfordshire Council in both appeals.