Tetlow King Planning (TKP) are very pleased to have assisted in the appeal success for 128 affordable dwellings on the edge of Burton-upon-Trent on behalf of Partner Construction Ltd, Midland Heart and Inside Land (Burton) Ltd.
James Stacey, Senior Director, provided expert evidence on the need for affordable housing and was assisted by Annie Gingell, Senior Planner, in respect of the future supply of affordable housing at the virtual hearing held in September 2020.
The appeal proposed 100% affordable housing and the presiding Inspector, Zoe Raygen, considered one of the main issues in the determination of the appeal to be the weight to be given to the provision of affordable housing at this time.
In considering this issue she found that since the start of the plan period there had been a shortfall of some 258 gross affordable dwellings against an identified need of 112 net units per annum (paragraph 5), as well as some 2,166 households on the Council’s Housing register (paragraph 6). In respect of forward supply, she highlighted at paragraph 7 that the council believed it had 884 affordable units coming forward in its five year housing land supply whereas TKP were of the view that only 625 would be likely to come forward over the period.
At paragraph 8 of her report Inspector Raygen agreed with TKP’s assertion that the Council should address the existing shortfall over the next five years, in line with the approach set out in the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) for overall housing shortfalls, resulting in the need to secure the delivery of some 164 dwellings per annum over the next five years. She concluded the paragraph by stating that:
“In my view, the extent of the shortfall and the number of households on the Council’s Housing Register combine to demonstrate a significant pressing need for affordable housing now. As such, I consider that, the aim should be to meet the shortfall as soon as possible.”
In considering the disputed sites in the council’s five year housing land supply that did not yet have planning permission Inpector Raygen stated at paragraph 9 that:
“I am not convinced, in accordance with the guidance in the PPG and the Framework, that there is clear evidence that the 108 dwellings relied on by the Council from these two sites would be deliverable within five years. There is nothing within the Framework or the PPG to suggest that this definition should not apply to affordable housing as well as market housing.”
She went on to highlight at paragraph 10 that in respect the disputed outline permission:
“I have seen nothing conclusive to demonstrate an agreed timescale for the submission of a reserved matters, with no clear evidence that there is a reasonable prospect of he associated eight affordable houses coming forward within the next five years.”
Ms Raygen goes on to set out a paragraph 11 that:
“My concern, given the nature of the development proposed, is whether the affordable housing needs of the Borough are being met. These are households in need of a home now. While the Council is of the view that there is not an overwhelming need for affordable housing which cannot be met within the settlement boundary, on allocated sites or through current planning permissions, just by excluding these three sites from its five year housing supply, the Councils expectation of 884 houses coming forward within five years is reduced to 768 which would be below the five year requirement of 818 dwellings including the existing shortfall.”
She explains at paragraph 12 that although the council had suggested that the delivery of affordable housing through the local plan is not the only route to its provision, it could only point to delivery through the private rented sector as an alternative. Inspector Raygen was clear that:
“Whether this would be genuinely affordable in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework) definition is not guaranteed.”
The Inspector also noted at paragraph 14 that:
“There is no dispute that, in general, the delivery of market housing within the Borough has met the required rate in the Local Plan, following the proposed trajectory in increased delivery over the plan period. In fact, the Council has surpassed the expected levels of delivery in the last two years and there is agreement that the Council can demonstrate a five-year housing land supply. However, this has not translated into the expected levels of affordable housing delivery. It is not clear why affordable housing delivery was not stepped to match that of overall housing and the Council was unable to advise me on this.”
She continued at paragraph 15 to highlight that even in the last two years where housing delivery has been high, the annual requirement for affordable housing had not been met comprising at most, some 13% of the overall housing provided. Noting that over the plan period, the average delivery of affordable housing is at 17% of total housing delivery, Inspector Raygen explained that:
“Even if I were to use this figure, for the Council to meet its annual affordable housing requirement it would need to deliver over 950 units per year, which has not been achieved to date and is not envisaged in the Council’s trajectory contained in Policy SP3 of the Local Plan, which requires 682 dwellings per annum from 2018/19 onwards”.
At paragraph 16 Ms Raygen raised concerns that “were this trend to continue, then it is unlikely that the required number of affordable homes would be provided in the long term.” Going on to highlight that “In any case there is a pressing need now, and the proposed 128 affordable dwellings would go some way to reducing the existing short fall.”
In addition to this she highlighted at paragraph 17 that there is a worsening trend in the lower quartile house price to income ratio, as well as the cost of private renting. Furthermore, the average lower quartile monthly rent in East Staffordshire in 2018/19 was £495 per month, an increase of some 24% since 2013/14 and the latest average house price in the Branston ward is around £200,000, an increase of 48% since the start of the Plan period in 2012/13. Inspector Raygen was clear that “these affordability factors have all worsened since the adoption of the local plan.”
In coming to a view, Ms Raygen noted that “I am mindful of the importance attached to the provision of housing and the requirement within paragraph 59 of the Framework to ensure that the needs of groups with specific housing requirements are addressed.”
Going on to clearly state that:
“In view of the significant number of households on the Council’s Housing Register (which demonstrates a significant pressing need now) the current shortfall in affordable housing provision and the worsening affordability factors, I consider that the development proposal would be a significant benefit in terms of helping to address the shortfall in the supply of affordable housing in the Borough in the short term that, based on the evidence before me, there is no certainty will be met from existing or future planning permissions.”
Ms Raygen concluded at paragraph 28 that “as set out above, I have found that it is not certain that the current and future identified need for affordable housing could be accommodated in the short term, by existing sites with planning permission some of which are within settlement boundaries.”
In respect of weight, at paragraph 52 she found:
“That the delivery of the site for 100% affordable housing would be a very significant benefit. Indeed, the SOCG sets out agreement that the weight to be afforded to the provision of affordable housing is at least significant. On a straightforward development plan balance, I am firmly of the view that the provision of the affordable housing proposed is a significant material consideration which, in this instance, outweighs the development plan conflict.“
Counsel for the appellant was Thea Osmund Smith QC of No.5 Chambers. Expert evidence was also provided by Andrew Gore of Marrons Planning (Planning Evidence) and Dr Amer Halabi of IPRT Planning (Highways).