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Estimating Long-Term Housing Need – Court of Appeal Guidance

Estimates of how many new homes will be needed in particular areas over years to come are inevitably inexact and are a constant bone of contention between local authorities and housing developers. That was certainly so in one case concerning a proposal to build 73 new homes just outside a market town.

A company had been refused outline planning permission for the project on the basis of a local policy that favoured preservation of the area’s open landscape. The local authority’s decision was subsequently upheld by a government planning inspector. The inspector accepted the council’s argument that, in order to meet demand, 450 new homes would need to be built in its area annually.

In challenging that decision, the company argued that that figure was a gross under-estimate and that, when the burgeoning need for more affordable homes was taken into account, 980 new homes per year would be required. Its appeal against the inspector’s decision was nevertheless dismissed by the High Court.

In rejecting the company’s appeal against that ruling, the Court of Appeal noted that the council’s estimate of the full, objectively assessed, need for new homes over the relevant period was based on a strategic housing market assessment relating to a county-wide area. In her perfectly rational decision, the inspector had adhered to both local and national planning policies in an orthodox manner. The developer’s estimate of housing need was in any event purely theoretical.

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