Covid-19’s impact on future housing delivery: “postulation”

On 17 June 2020, the Secretary of State’s appointed Inspector dismissed Bellway’s appeal and refused to grant planning permission for 250 dwellings on part of an allocated site in Barnsley. It was common ground that the Council currently has a 5-year housing land supply, but the developer predicted “trouble ahead”. It emphasised the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, amongst other matters. The Inspector’s remarks on this are worth highlighting: “…the implications for the housebuilding industry are currently not fully understood. The effects will be time-limited, however the length of potential delays for delivery of sites both nationally and within the Borough are unknown. Assumptions about future housing delivery in this case would be postulation.” As such, the Inspector was unable to conclude that the housing land supply would tip below 5 years in the coming monitoring period. The decision is also notable for the effect of the lack of an adopted Masterplan Framework, which is required by the salient policy in the Local Plan. This effect was central to the Council’s opposition to the appeal. Consultation on a draft Masterplan Framework has begun, and adoption is expected later this year, but delays in its production have generated frustration from the developer and other landowners. In an attempt to address the issue, Bellway submitted its own Masterplan Framework for the entire allocation, albeit without formal consultation with the public or other stakeholders and without quantifying the cumulative infrastructure requirements. However, the Inspector agreed with the Council’s position and concluded that the bringing forward of the proposed development prior to the production of and adoption of an approved Masterplan Framework for the entire allocation was in clear conflict with the development plan with significant potential to prejudice delivery and comprehensive development of the wider site allocation. Procedurally, the appeal illustrates one way in which parties may respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The appeal was scheduled as an inquiry, but this was cancelled shortly before the opening day and the parties agreed that the appeal could proceed by the written representations procedure. Stephen Whale of Landmark Chambers represented Barnsley MBC throughout the appeal. For a copy of the Inspector’s decision, click here.

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