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CPRE's response to Supreme Court ruling on paragraph 49 of the NPPF

The Supreme Court’s judgement in Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes and Richborough Estates v Cheshire East Borough Council has issued a significant ruling about the meaning of specific policies within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

In this judgement, the judges supported a narrow definition of 'policies for the supply of housing' (in paragraph 49 of the NPPF). This means that local policies seeking to prevent development outside town or village boundaries, and/or protect areas of important countryside, are not to be automatically considered out of date in the absence of a five-year housing land supply. Instead, the decision maker will need to establish the appropriate balance to be drawn between the benefits of upholding the policy and the benefits of providing new housing, taking into account the extent to which the policy in itself restricts the supply of housing and the magnitude of local housing need.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England welcomes this judgement, as it means that countryside and heritage policies do not automatically lose their applicability in the planning process in response to a failure of housing supply. However, it is unlikely that the judgement will prevent developers from continuing to try their luck in planning by appeal.

Matt Thomson, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, commented:

“Since the National Planning Policy Framework came into force in 2012, land speculators and developers have all too often successfully persuaded councils, planning inspectors and the Secretary of State that the appropriate response to a council failing to meet its five-year housing land supply was simply to set aside all local conservation policies and allow housing development, regardless of the quality of the development proposed and the harm it might cause to areas of local and national environmental and heritage importance.

“This judgement helps by confirming that where a local authority area is falling short on its housing supply, then decisions should be made that involve drawing a balance between the benefits of continuing to protect cherished areas and the need to provide more houses. We would argue that this gives decision makers a better opportunity to ensure that individual speculative planning applications are considered in a broader context, including the availability of other less damaging opportunities, rather than being pressured to grant consent on a first come, first served basis.

“We hope that this judgement, by making clear that countryside or heritage policies are not relevant policies for the supply of housing, will help to reduce the impact of unscrupulous speculative development on our countryside and rural communities. We hope local people will now have the freedom they should expect to protect their local countryside. We also call on the Government to stop allowing developers to use planning appeals to undermine locally agreed plans.”

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