Green Belt and Housing Need21 November, 2013
The recent case of Hunston Properties Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWHC 2678 (Admin) clarified some significant points in relation to housing development in the Green Belt.
The Claimant’s planning application for 116 dwellings in the Green Belt had been refused by St Albans City and District Council. On appeal, the Claimant relied on the presumption in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 14 of the NPPF. It alleged that the District Council was unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply and that therefore, due to paragraph 49 of the NPPF, the District Council’s development plan was out of date. As a result, planning permission should be granted for the development unless there were any adverse impacts of doing so that would significantly outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the NPPF as a whole or specific policies in the NPPF indicating development should be restricted. Such a specific policy exists in relation to Green Belt. It provides that with a housing development, such as in this case, such development is inappropriate and so should not be permitted unless very special circumstances exist. The Claimant argued at appeal that the lack of a five year housing land supply presented such a very special circumstance.
The District Council did not have an up to date adopted development plan. The Inspector therefore relied on the housing figures provided for under the East of England Plan. On that basis there was not a five year housing land supply deficit. The Judge in the High Court agreed with the Claimant’s arguments. These were that the East of England Plan housing figures should not be used. Instead, the most recent DCLG housing growth figures should be used. The Judge agreed that the East of England Plan housing figures could not be relied upon because they were arrived at by not only the unconstrained housing need, which is the correct approach, but then those numbers were reduced to take into account constraints, such as the Green Belt. Paragraph 47 NPPF required an assessment of unconstrained housing need and therefore the East of England Plan figures should not be used.
It was therefore the case that there was a lack of a five year housing land supply and that this could constitute very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development within the Green Belt.
Reviewed in 2015