By Akeem Iginla
An appeal against a refusal for an 81 dwelling development in Wootton Bedfordshire has been dismissed by the Planning Inspector, after concluding that although Bedford Borough Council housing land supply had reduced marginally below the required five years as a result of the economic consequences of Covid-19, these effects were likely to be in the short term.
The developer had earlier appealed against the decision of the Council to refuse its application for the housing development on an allocated site. However, the application was refused by the Council due to highway matters.
The Inspector’s report noted that during the examination of the Council adopted Local Plan housing land supply of the Council was 5.4 years. It further stated that with the Council’s calculations based on sites with planning permission as at 31 March 2019, the supply is 5.75 years.
The report suggested that the developer had argued that the Council’s land supply position had been compromised due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This argument was acknowledged by the Inspector who accepted that the pandemic has had great consequences for the housebuilding industry including lockdowns that had prevented work and customer confidence in buying and selling properties.
The Inspector noted that the pandemic “resulted in the Council’s housing land supply falling below five years, although marginally. Whilst a five year supply would not engage the tilted balance, anything below this, however slight, does engage paragraph 11 (d) of the National Planning Policy Framework and renders the most important policies for the supply of housing out of date”.
The Inspector accepted that, there were currently a shortfall in the Council five-year housing land supply, hence the tilted balance should be applied, but noted that this is a marginal shortfall and is for a short period of time which is through no fault of the Council.
According to the Inspector, “he found that the weight he afforded to this is less than if the shortfall were significant and /or the impacts of the pandemic were demonstrably long term”.
He concluded in his report weighing up all of the material considerations against the policies of the development plan which are not out of date, even though the tilted balance is applied. He had given more weight to the conflict with the recently adopted development plan and the substantial harm that he had identified in relation to character and appearance and location for housing and to a lesser extent the loss of agricultural land. Hence, he dismissed the appeal.