Developer fails in Wokingham housing figure challenge

Out-Law News | 15 Jul 2014 | 4:00 pm | 1 min. read

A developer's challenge to housing figures in Wokingham Borough Council's local plan documents has been rejected by the High Court.

The Council adopted its managing development delivery plan (MDDP) in February 2014 following examination by an inspector. The MDDP allocates sites for residential development in the borough and uses figures from the core strategy document adopted by the Council in 2010 as the basis for its identified housing need of 13,230 homes between 2006 and 2026.

Developer Gladman Development applied to the High Court to quash the MDDP, saying that the housing figures in the core strategy document were out of date and that the inspector failed to ensure that the borough's objectively assessed need for housing had been identified in his consideration of whether the document was sound, in contravention of guidance under the National Planning Policy Framework.

Disagreeing with the developer, Mr Justice Lewis said in his judgment that the inspector was not required to consider the objectively assessed need for housing in his decision on the soundness of the MDDP. The inspector was aware, said the judge, that the housing figures from the core strategy "may be a serious underestimate", but had rightly concluded that "in the absence of any better, more credible figure ... 'it was appropriate to continue to rely on' the number of dwellings identified in the core strategy".

The judge drew a distinction between the application of NPPF guidance to development plan documents which are intended to deal with the objective need for housing and those which are not.

"Where a development plan document is intended to deal with the assessment of the need for housing, then the provisions of the [NPPF] material to housing need will be a material consideration," said Mr Justice Lewis. "Properly read, however, the [NPPF] 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."

"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," said the judge.

Dismissing the application, the judge concluded that the MDDP had been lawfully adopted.