EDDC’s Planning Service is considering the implications of a developer winning a planning appeal for 50 homes on a site in Station Road, Feniton.

A Government Inspector upheld an appeal by Wainhomes (South West) against the Council’s refusal of planning permission. The 50 homes near Louvigny Close can now be built, but there are 12 conditions attached to the permission, and 40% of the new homes must be ‘affordable’.

At a Planning Inquiry in August, EDDC had maintained that the proposal would see homes built on a site in the open countryside that has not been allocated for house building.

But the Inspector acepted Wainhomes’ contention that the Council cannot show that it has a supply of land suitable for house-building to cope with likely need over the next five years and so some new housing developments must be allowed to go ahead.

The importance of the so-called ‘Five-year Land Supply’ has always been an important consideration, but it now carries more weight since the Government published its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) earlier this year.

Buffer

Paragraph 47 of the NPPF requires an annually updated supply of specific deliverable sites able to provide five years’ worth of housing against the housing requirements, with an additional buffer to ensure choice and competition in the market for land. The Inspector advised that this buffershould be 20% (rather than the 5% that the Council contends is sufficient under the NPPF).

Land supply based on the way the Council allocates parts of the district for housing development is a key part of EDDC’s new Local Plan. This document has been in production for some years, but has not yet been completed due to an exhaustive series of meetings and public consultations.

Current planning applications therefore need to be considered by taking into account existing planning policy – and this is where the Council was unable to convince the Inspector that it has the necessary land supply. Despite the existence of a large housing allocation at Cranbrook, the Inspector doubted that enough homes would be completed quickly enough to satisfy the urgent need for housing in East Devon.

The Inquiry sat for three days from 7 to 9 August. An accompanied visit was made to the site and its immediate surroundings on 9 August and unaccompanied visits to Tipton St John, West Hill, and Feniton and its wider surroundings were carried out on 10 August 2012. EDDC recently won appeals against refusal of permission at West Hill and Tipton – but these were before the new NPPF was in force.

Setback

EDDC’s Planning Service will now be assessing the implications of the appeal decision on its current planning policy. The Council’s Development Management Committee will receive a report on the appeal and what it could mean for future planning applications and appeals.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Development and Partnerships, said: “This is most certainly a setback for us in terms of our desire to protect the environment and see new homes built in a controlled manner.

“We are well aware that new homes – especially affordable housing – need to be built and we are making ongoing efforts to convince some of our residents that saying no to new development is not an option. Blanket or widespread refusal only makes the council vulnerable to losing appeals – as in this case – or to receiving more applications for sites that we deem unsuitable.

“When we grant permission we are sometimes accused of not listening to towns and parishes. What people need to understand is that we can only refuse permission if there are sound planning reasons that we can defend. This case demonstrates just how thin that line can sometimes be”.