Home > Cases > Robb v South Cambridgeshire DC [2017] EWHC 594 (Admin)

The High Court (Ouseley J) today quashed a planning permission, granted by South Cambridgeshire District Council on land it owned, for 10 affordable houses in the Green Belt.

The Council found that the development was not inappropriate development in the Green Belt, relying on paragraph 89(5) of the NPPF which states that new buildings which provide “limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan” is appropriate development in the Green Belt.

It was common ground that the Council’s Planning Committee had found that the development did not comply with the relevant rural exception sites policy in its Local Plan, on the basis that the proposed development would have an adverse effect on landscape character.

The Claimant argued that this meant that the development was not appropriate development, because the exception in paragraph 89(5) only applies where an application complies with the relevant Local Plan policy permitting limited affordable housing for local community needs.

It the application does not comply with the Local Plan policy, it is not appropriate development and planning permission can only be granted where very special circumstances exist (paragraph 88 of the NPPF), which the Planning Committee did not find in this case.

The Defendant argued that all that was necessary for the exception in paragraph 89(5) to apply was that there was a policy in the Local Plan permitting limited affordable housing in the Green Belt. It was unnecessary for the development to comply with that policy, because paragraph 89 of the NPPF was only concerned with the principle of development. If the policy existed, then any application for limited affordable housing for local community needs could be deemed to be appropriate development.

Ouseley J accepted the Claimant’s interpretation of paragraph 89(5) stating: “When the NPPF refers to an exception treating as appropriate development limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan it plainly intended that the relevant policy should be properly complied with”.

He found that the NPPF cross-referred to Local Plan policies on affordable housing in the Green Belt because national planning policy recognised that local planning authorities are entitled to decide where, and on what basis, affordable housing should be acceptable in the Green Belt.

Mr. Justice Ouseley also accepted the Claimant’s submission that, on the Defendant’s interpretation of paragraph 89(5), there would be no value in local planning authorities including criteria in their rural exception sites policy which sought to protect the Green Belt; and also that planning permission could be granted for development harmful to the Green Belt without these effects ever being considered.

The Planning Permission was therefore quashed.

Robb v South Cambridgeshire District Council CO/3891/2016.  

Andrew Parkinson acted for the Claimant, instructed by Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law

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