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Supreme Court Hands Down Judgement in a Case Concerning the National Planning Policy Framework

Victoria Charlesson

Victoria Charlesson, Solicitor in our Planning Law team, discusses the Supreme Court which today handed down judgement in a case concerning the National Planning Policy Framework. 

Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd and another; Richborough Estates Partnership LLP and another v Cheshire East Borough Council [2017] UKSC 37.

The Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in the above conjoined appeal. The case concerns the meaning and effect of paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”). Paragraph 49 of the NPPF provides that:

“Relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year housing supply of deliverable housing sites”

The Court of Appeal decision in 2016 held that this paragraph should be construed widely to mean that “relevant policies” include all of those that affect “the supply of housing”.  

On this construction of paragraph 49, policies in respect of the Green Belt or the protection of wildlife could be considered “out-of-date” if the effect of them would be to influence the supply of housing and the local planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply. The two Councils Cheshire East BC and Suffolk Coast DC sought leave for appeal to the Supreme Court. 

Supreme Court decision
The Supreme Court held that a narrower interpretation of “relevant policies” should be used. Lord Carnwarth who gave the lead judgment found that whilst “it is true that other groups of policies, positive or restrictive, may interact with the housing policies, and so affect their operation…that does not make them policies for the supply of housing in the ordinary sense of that expression”.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court emphasised that regardless of this interpretation, the weight to be given to policies such as restrictions on development within the Green Belt, remains a matter for the decision maker. 

Summary of the position
If a local planning authority is unable to demonstrate a five year housing supply those policies which are for the supply of housing (e.g. housing allocation sites etc.) are to be treated as out of date. However, policies which may affect the supply of housing (e.g. by restricting development due to Green Belt designation) are not to be treated as such. The weight to be given to the latter policies will be a matter for the planning judgment of local planning authorities and the Secretary of State in light of the presumption in favour of sustainable development encompassed in Paragraph 14 of the NPPF.

For more information, please contact Victoria Charlesson or a member of our Planning Law team.

This blog article was produced with support from Kayleigh Chapman.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.