Monday, 27 September 2021

Housing rules set to tighten

DEVELOPERS may not be able to get permission for new housing in future by simply claiming there is a shortage of homes in an area, says John Howell.

The Henley MP says planning authorities like South Oxfordshire District Council waste millions of pounds a year defending themselves against claims that they have failed to secure enough sites to meet demand.

He says the Government is considering changing the law so that these arguments may not be made in support of a planning appeal by a developer.

Instead, housing figures would only be open to challenge once a year when authorities produce their annual monitoring statement, a list of available sites and their capacity.

In the meantime, appellants would have to make their case on other grounds such as whether a council followed correct procedure.

The land supply argument was central to the battle over proposals to build 95 homes at Thames Farm, off the A4155 between Henley and Shiplake, which cost the taxpayer at least £75,000.

The dstrict council refused the application in 2016 as the land wasn’t earmarked for development in joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

But last year landowner Claire Engbers convinced a planning inspector that the council hadn’t secured enough housing land for the plan to remain legally enforceable.

The council launched a legal challenge, claiming the inspector’s workings were wrong and its land supply was sufficient. However, a judge refused to overturn the inspector’s ruling.

Mr Howell said: “Developers should have the right to challenge the land supply but it should take place within the context of the annual report, which would strike a fair balance between their right to question the figures and the need to do something about the current situation.”

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