We are now starting to see the implications of Covid-19 trickle into planning appeal decisions. My colleague Hannah Mannion considers a recent appeal decision relating to a housing site promoted by Welbeck Strategic Land below.

An Inspector has directly referred to the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and consequently adjusted housing land supply downwards in decision dated 9 April 2020 relating to an appeal proposal for 117 new homes in open countryside in Berkshire. The outcome of the appeal was still a refusal as a five-year supply could be demonstrated regardless of the pandemic implications, and landscape and other harm outweighed the benefits of the proposal. However, the Inspector in particular noted that the appellant concluded that the impacts would be felt for 3 to 6 months and that although the removal of 168 dwellings from the trajectory was argued to be optimistic, it was plausible that the sector would bounce back once the restrictions were lifted.

This decision is an indication of how the outbreak is likely to be taken into consideration going forward to assess whether authorities can demonstrate a five-year housing land supply and whether sites are “deliverable”. By way of a reminder, as part of a revised National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) in July 2018, the Housing Delivery Test (“HDT”) was introduced which measures whether planned requirements for local housing need have been met over the last 3 years. The 5 year housing supply is a calculation of whether there is a deliverable supply of homes to meet the planned housing requirement (or local housing need) over the relevant 5 year period. Where local authorities fail to deliver their plan-led targets they will face a number of sanctions, depending on the percentage by which they have failed to deliver their targets, and there will be implications on how applications are determined under the NPPF stemming from the housing policies being considered out of date.

 The aim by the Government was to introduce the measures to help deliver its target of building 300,000 new homes a year and hold local authorities accountable if they are unable to achieve their targets. The next set of HDT results are due to be published by November 2020 and the effect of Covid-19 will no doubt have an impact on those results. This should be taken into account by any developers promoting or local authorities determining housing applications over the coming months.