According to the NPPF plans to be sound have to ‘be based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development needs.'(para 182). But what happens when it is based on a strategy, but that strategy does not meet objectively assessed needs. As for example an allocations plan, As for example Wokingham. Gladmans sought to explot this lacuna with a JR, which failed.
- In my judgment, an inspector assessing the soundness of a development plan document dealing with the allocation of sites for a quantity of housing which is needed is not required to consider whether an objective assessment of housing need would disclose a need for additional housing. I reach that conclusion for the following reasons.
- First, the statutory framework does not require such an approach. The statutory framework recognises that a development plan may be comprised of a number different development plan documents. Section 19(2)(h) of the 2004 Act provides that a local planning authority preparing a development plan document must have regard to any other local development document (which will include a development plan document). Thus where, as here, the Defendant has an adopted development plan document in the form of a Core Strategy, it must have regard to that in preparing a subsequent development plan document. The inspector, on examination, will need to ensure, amongst other things, that that requirement has been met (see section 20(5)(a) of the 2004 Act).
- The structure of the 2004 Act is, therefore, consistent with a situation where one development plan document is giving effect to another earlier such document. It may be that the earlier development plan document needs up dating, and may need to make further and additional provision for development in the future. There is, however, nothing in the statutory framework to suggest that a development plan document, such as the MDD here, cannot be adopted simply because another development plan document, such as the Core Strategy, may need to be updated to include additional provision, for example additional housing.
- Secondly, the Framework properly interpreted, and read against the statutory background, does not, in my judgment, require the result contended for by the Claimant. The Framework sets out the government’s policies on planning in England. It provides guidance. It is written in a way which is intended to be accessible to the reader as is clear from the foreword. The Framework offers guidance on what it describes as local plans. These are, or at least include, the development plan. The development plan is, however, comprised of a series of development plan documents adopted under the 2004 Act as the glossary to the Framework makes clear. One should, therefore, be wary about assuming that the guidance in relation to one particular development plan document necessarily applies to all other development plan documents simply because the Framework refers to “local plans” without differentiating between different development plan documents for these purposes.
- Where a development plan document is intended to deal with the assessment of the need for housing, then, the provisions of the Framework material to housing need will be a material consideration. A local planning authority dealing with the question of the amount of housing needed for its area will need to have regard to paragraph 47 of the Framework. The provisions governing a local plan – that is a development plan document – dealing with the assessment of housing need would have to have regard to paragraphs 158 and 159 of the Framework. Any examination of that local plan, that is that particular development document, would need to have regard in that context to paragraph 182 of the Framework.
- Properly read, however, the Framework does not require a development plan document which is dealing with the allocation of sites for an amount of housing provision agreed to be necessary to address, also, the question of whether further housing provision will need to be made.
- Thirdly, in my judgment, the approach advocated by the Claimant would be likely to run counter to the aims of the Framework and lead to results that were not intended. On the facts of the present case, for example, the position taken by the inspector is that a figure of at least 13,230 dwellings will be required and the MDD, with modifications, would address the allocation of that amount of housing in a sound way. On the Claimant’s case, the Defendant cannot prepare, and an inspector cannot consider the soundness of, a development plan document dealing with the allocation of necessary housing until further steps are taken to identify whether additional housing is required. The process of adopting the MDD allocating sites for required housing would have to stop while a strategic housing market assessment is carried out or equivalent data obtained. If additional housing were to be needed, then either the scope of the proposed MDD would have to be enlarged to include the larger figures and have that MDD supersede the Core Strategy figure or a development plan document dealing with changes to the Core Strategy would need to be prepared. It is difficult to see that that interpretation is consistent with the Framework which seeks to encourage the development of development plan documents and to ensure that such documents are in place to guide decisions on development.
- Fourthly, in reality, the approach of the Claimant would involve using the perceived need to comply with the Framework as a way of compelling the Defendant to carry out a full, objective assessment of its housing needs to discover if additional housing provision were required. The Defendant is, however, already under a statutory duty to review matters which may be expected to affect the development of their area (section 13(1) of the 2004 Act). The Defendant is also under a duty to keep the development plan documents under review having regard to the results of any such review (section 17(6) of the 2004 Act). The Defendant in the present case is, as the evidence establishes, in the process of preparing a strategic housing market assessment which may lead to a review of the housing provision identified as necessary. The use of the Framework as a means of compelling the Defendant to carry out of such reviews is not necessary. In those circumstances, the interpretation of the Framework advanced by the Claimant has less force. The Claimant’s interpretation is not needed to ensure that the local planning authority performs a review of its housing need but it would prevent them from adopting a development plan document which allocates sites for housing need already established.
Finally, this conclusion is, in my judgment, consistent with the decision in Gallagher Homes Ltd. There, Hickinbottom J. was dealing with a development plan document which did involve the assessment of housing need and proposed a figure of 11,000 new dwellings in the relevant period as appears from paragraph 35 of the judgment. It was in that context that Hickinbottom J. considered that the inspector erred in his approach to the examination of that development plan document in not addressing fully the issue of what was the objectively assessed need for housing. This case is different. The inspector here was not examining a development plan document assessing housing provision. He was examining a plan which proposed site allocations for housing which, as a minimum, would contribute towards the agreed housing need of the area.
This rather trumps the narrow inter[restation of Gallagher by the Wandsworth Inspetor