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High Court confirms NPPF takes precedence over Localism Act and incomplete Local Plans

Wed 27 Feb 2013

The High Court this week confirmed that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) takes precedence over the Localism Act and out-of-date or incomplete local development plans when the Secretary of State granted planning permission for 1,000 new homes in Gloucestershire.

In the case Tewkesbury Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) Comparo Limited (2) Welbeck Strategic Land LLP (3), developers sought to overturn a decision by the local authority which had refused an application for 1,000 new homes on open farmland at Bishop’s Cleve, Gloucester.

The courts found that the existing local plan was out of date and therefore carried little weight.  The courts also found that despite an emerging joint core strategy between Tewkesbury Borough Council, Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council, that strategy was incapable of meeting the demand for housing over the next five years.

Karen Cooksley, Partner and Head of Winckworth Sherwood’s Planning team said: “This is an important decision for developers and local authorities.  It shows that the Secretary of State is serious about the five year housing land supply and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.”

Tewkesbury Borough Council argued in court that this decision undermines the democratic process and that it is for the council to determine the provision of housing locally through establishing a local development plan though consultation with the local community.

Karen adds: “Local authorities have had years to prepare and adopt a local plan.  Those that failed to do so knew that the guidance outlined in the NPPF would apply.  The Localism Act has not brought about a fundamental change in the proper approach to planning applications.

“Developers can take some comfort that schemes brought forward will have the full weight of the law behind them if they meet the requirements of the NPPF and where local authorities have failed to put in place a local plan.”

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