A non-determination appeal made by Bovis Homes Ltd and Robert Hitchins Ltd against Tewkesbury Borough Council has been allowed.
The appeal is for up to 95 dwellings and located on land off the A38, Coombe Hill near Tewkesbury.
It is notable for two reasons: the demand for, and provision of, schools; and the extent of the Councils Housing Land Supply, which has been the subject of several recent appeals.
In terms of schools, the appellants had challenged the County Council’s request for education contributions. Central to the Appellants case was the assertion that education would be covered by CIL receipts, which took up a considerable amount of Inquiry time.
In considering the evidence, the Inspector found that the child product ratios had been exaggerated and that the translation into pupil product ratios were also overestimated. The Inspector therefore remained unconvinced by the calculations of the pupil demand but used the County Council’s ‘worst case scenario’ figures to determine the appeal for robustness.
The Inspector then proceeded to examine the capacity of existing schools and pointed out that there is no suggestion that the examination of capacity should be limited to a single school planning area, as the County Council had done so in this case. That was particularly problematic here since the site is located on the cusp of several school planning areas. In considering schools within these school planning areas, the Inspector went on to find that that there was sufficient school capacity. As such the County Council’s request for education contributions did not meet the statutory tests of the CIL Regulations and were not necessary.
In terms of housing land supply both parties agreed that there is a plan period shortfall of allocated sites, and that the Council could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply. However, the parties differed considerably over the size of the shortfall. The Council claimed a 4.37-year supply, whereas the Appellants claimed a 2.4-year supply.
Central to that matter was the Council’s use of over-supply from earlier years to off-set against future housing requirement. The Appellants effectively sought to argue that any previous supply more than the annual requirement should not be used to reduce following year’s requirement. Indeed, two recent appeal decisions in the Borough supported the Appellant’s case.
The calculation of a five-year supply is commonly made by reference to an averaging of the plan period requirement, but the Inspector reasoned that this does not reflect a reality in which supply can fluctuate wildly year by year. The Inspector considered that the Council’s method for calculating its five-year supply was a ‘just approach, because it reflects reality, not a theoretical formula applied without consideration of actual outturns’. Nonetheless, the Inspector concluded that in any event, the Council did not have a five-year supply of housing and the ‘tilted balance’ was triggered.
Adam White – Principal Planner at Evans Jones commented:
“On the face of it, this appeal decision appears to support the Councils approach to the calculation of its housing land supply. This raises further uncertainly given the gulf between the Council’s claimed housing land supply and that claimed by others; especially given the Courts have held that greater significance should be given to the benefits of housing provision, in proportion to the size of shortfalls in housing supply. The Council’s recent legal challenge on that matter may well prove decisive in due course and could have wider implications for the calculation of housing land supply elsewhere across the Country.
The appeal also raises important questions concerning the County Council’s approach to calculating education needs and corresponding request for a significant payment for education provision. While the Inspector failed to address the relationship between CIL and planning obligations, it does demonstrate that requests for education contributions must be based on a tangible unmet need in the area where development is proposed. It remains to be determined whether education contributions can be collected via S106 agreements “.
Adam White is Principal Planner at Evans Jones Property and Planning Consultancy. If you would like to find out more about Planning services or discuss your project, you can contact Adam on 0345 0097 048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.