Dismissals at Appeal of applications that do not accord with the HDPF seem to show that having a five-year housing-land supply and an adopted NPPF-compliant plan has restored the balance in favour of plan-led decision-taking by the District’s councillors and officers.
This means that developers can no longer presume that their applications to build on sites that have not been allocated for development, either in the HDPF or by emerging Neighbourhood Plans, will be permitted at Appeal irrespective of residents’ aspirations and wishes.
These much needed positives, however, are dependent on the council having a demonstrable five-year housing supply, which in turn is dependent on market demand and house-builders being willing and able to build the requisite number of houses – in all years to 2031.
However, house-builders are in business and they will not build more houses than can be sold at an acceptable-to-them profit - and they will adjust and if necessary reduce build rates in order to maintain profitably, as they did during the recent recession and related financial crisis.
They are under no regulatory obligation either to meet Inspector Salter’s arbitrary interim target of 800 houses pa or keep to the council’s forward five-year-supply trajectory.
Yet in spite of this reality, it would be Horsham District Council, not house-builders who would be blamed and held to account by the Government and the Planning Inspectorate, should Inspector Salter’s arbitrary target and the five-year requirement not be achieved.
In which eventuality, the HDPF would be deemed to be out of date thereby enabling developers to disregard emerging Neighbourhood Plans and gain at Appeal yet more permissions for greenfield sites.
Thus national planning policies can be exploited to the detriment of communities and councils.
Dr ROGER F. SMITH
For Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Sussex (Horsham District), Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield
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