Fri, 18 Jul 2014
Ian Dove QC and Nina Pindham secured planning permission and a partial costs award for a site in Northumberland, which may hold the record for the most tortuous planning history. An initial hybrid application for the development of 200 residential dwellings and ancillary commercial development was refused by Northumberland County Council, however the Council subsequently withdrew from the appeal, leaving a local resident's group to carry on the opposition alone. They won the appeal, but the inspector's decision was then successfully challenged in the High Court. In the meantime, a similar application had been submitted and again refused by the Council. This refusal was, again, appealed, and, again, the Council withdrew from the appeal, leaving the same local resident's group opposing the development. The two appeals were combined, barristers from No5 Chambers were instructed, and an inquiry took place. Inspector Philip Major, following the decision in Arundel District Council v Secretary of State for the Communities and Local Government, had no regard to the local resident's group's arguments based on their successful defence of the initial application and determined that the development was sustainable when assessed against the NPPF as a whole, and that the provision of much needed market and affordable housing outweighed any adverse impacts.
Of note is the inspector's firm conclusion that Northumberland County Council could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply and already faced a serious shortfall against the likely housing need, in addition to finding that the Council would have to significantly increase its housing provision for the area generally on the basis of the approach to calculating housing need in the NPPF as opposed to the RS. The inspector preferred the appellant's evidence regarding flood risk to the local residents' arguments; however he acknowledged that the area is susceptible to flooding and that the area had experienced serious flooding in the recent past.
When awarding the appellant's costs against the Council, the inspector stated that, although finely balanced, the Council's failure to give proper consideration to the housing policies in the NPPF justified an award of costs. The Council had also demonstrated unreasonable behaviour in adding a reason for refusal without evidence to substantiate it.