QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| UK COAL MINING LIMITED
|- and -
NORTH WARWICKSHIRE BOROUGH COUNCIL
(instructed by Messrs Nabarro Nathanson Solicitors) for the Claimant
Mr Ian Dove QC and Miss Jenny Wigley instructed by and for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 12 December 2007
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Wyn Williams :
Relevant Statutory Provisions
The grounds of challenge
"This, to my mind, is so critical that it warrants reference in the Plan's strategy, not least to give clear voice to the need for the Council to progress with urgency the formulation of a Core Policy Development Plan Document dealing with housing land allocations in order to ensure that an adequate planned supply of housing can be maintained. I accordingly recommend a core policy supported by reasoned justification to indicate not only what the residual requirement is, but how it has been calculated and the broad manner in which it is intended to be met, but also to express commitment to formulation of the relevant DPD at the earliest stage in LDF preparation."
In that extract references to "Core Policy Development Plan Document", "DPD" and "LDF" are references to local plan documents to be prepared under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. In the light of the factors to which I have just drawn attention the Inspector formulated a core policy which he recommended should be included within the Plan. It was in the following terms: -
"CORE POLICY A: HOUSING LAND REQUIREMENT
Planned provision will be made for between 3000 and 3200 dwellings to be completed within the plan area in the period 1996-2011. To this end, some 27 HA of land will be made the subject of site-specific allocations and proposals for housing development to meet the residual requirement of between 900 and 1100 completed dwellings in the period end March 2004 to end March 2011."
There followed a table in which the Inspector explained how he arrived at the figures 900 to 1100 for the period from March 2004 to March 2011.
"Sites in this category are also in suitable locations for allocation but are subject to constraints (which I specify) that, in my estimation, render them either unavailable or undeliverable within the Plan period, or (mainly in the case of green field sites) are suitable only if no sequentially preferable alternatives can be identified. It is in this category that I include (alongside certain other of the Council's proposed sites) the most suitable of the sites advanced by the objectors."
"PROPOSAL A: PLANNED HOUSING PROVISION AT POLESWORTH/DORDON
Planned provision will be made at Polesworth/Dordon for the phased development in the post 2007 period of up to 425 dwellings with necessary community infrastructure, environmental works, access and travel and transport facilities. This will be brought forward in site specific form in the Core Policies Development Plan Document to be produced by the Council in accordance with the approved Local Development Scheme for the Borough."
"Planned provision will be made for a maximum of 1850 dwellings to be completed within the plan area in the period 2001-2011. To this end, 16 hectares of land will be made the subject of site specific allocations and proposals for housing development to meet the residual requirement of a maximum of 570 completed dwellings in the period end March 2005 to end March 2011."
"This recommendation not to be taken forward as a proposal at the present time due to the change in residual housing requirement. A future housing DPD will consider this issue.
"Change to reflect a start date of 2001 and the consequential changes to the number of dwellings required over the remaining plan period."
"Para 6.8 of PPG 12 requires that provision be made for a period of 10 yrs post expected adoption date. As the LP cannot be adopted before 2006, it should therefore make housing provision for a minimum period of up to 2016. The context in which the Inspector's recommendations were made has changed – it is predicted that the revision of the RSS will not be submitted to the SoS until June 2007. It cannot therefore be reasonably expected to be adopted until 2008. Because the revision will inform the LDF, the adoption of the LDF will not be achieved by January 2009. The LP should therefore allocate sufficient new sites to provide a housing supply for the period up to 2012. It may be more appropriate to make sufficient allocations up to 2016 in line with PPG 12. The Government Office letter of June 2005 explains that RSS County housing requirements are to be apportioned using Structure Plan distribution to determine district level housing requirements. For the period 2001 – 2021 RSS requires an annual average of 1350 dwellings in Warwickshire. The SP distributes 10.3% of the County requirement to North Warwickshire. Therefore an annual average of 139 dwellings should be provided in North Warwickshire in the post 2011 period.
It is therefore requested that Core Policy A be amended to require the provision of 2550 dwellings to be completed in the period 2011 to 2016. New site specific allocations will be required to meet the residual requirement of 1046 dwellings."
"The Inspector has considered this issue [in] para 2.3 his Report. The Council has committed in reports brought to Board previously that a Housing DPD will be produced in order to take this issue forward."
"Inspector's recommendation on the residual amount of housing required to meet needs in the Plan period equate to annual average provision of between 128 to 156 dwellings. He recommended that the Proposal A site at Polesworth/Dordon be allocated to provide 425 dwellings after 2007. In effect the Inspector recommended that sufficient allocations be made for immediate development to provide 2.5-3yrs supply up to 2007. The further allocation recommended for the post 2007 period intended to provide a further 3-3.5yrs supply up to 2010. Purpose of recommending such a supply was to meet the need until the LDF could be adopted. Inspector's recommendations need to be considered in this context. If the same reasoning is applied to the 2005 RSS based housing requirements and supply figures set out in table 1 a shortfall in housing allocations can only continue to be acceptable provided sufficient allocations are made to meet needs until 2010. Residual housing requirement to be met by new allocations identified at 2005 is 646 dwellings, an annual average of 108 dwellings. To provide a supply to meet needs until the LDF can begin to deliver new housing, sites with a minimum capacity of 540 dwellings should be allocated. The LP fails to do so. 296 dwellings only provide a 2.7yrs supply which leads to an inadequate supply of housing for the period 2008-2010. The Local Plan should therefore allocate additional sites to provide an extra 244 dwellings. This not withstanding, while the approach of the Inspector is understood the context in which it was formulated has changed, it is not expected that the RSS will be submitted to the SoS until June 2007 and therefore it is not likely to be adopted until 2008. The LDF is therefore likely to be delayed for a further 1-2yrs. The LP therefore needs to allocate new sites to provide a housing supply for the period of up to 2012. As the circumstances which persuaded the Inspector to recommend making a level of new site allocations which do not accord with PPG12 have changed, it may be more appropriate to make sufficient new site allocations which do accord with this guidance. Para 6.8 of PPG12 requires that provision be made for a period of 10yrs post expected adoption. This would mean until 2016."
"The RSS and in particular the letter from Government Office supersedes the Inspector's reasoning in justifying the allocation of 425 units to Polesworth & Dordon. The Inspector was working within the remit of minimum housing figures whereas latest advice is that for Shire Districts such as North Warwickshire a maximum figure should be used. An allocation of 425 units will take the housing figures over the maximum. The Council's stance is supported by the GOWM".
"The Local Plan makes inadequate housing provision. There will be a shortfall in housing sites for the post 2008 period. The forthcoming LDF will not be able to address this shortfall until 2010 at the earliest and probably not until significantly later. In these circumstances it is essential that the Local Plan allocates more sustainable land for housing development. The Inspector made a firm recommendation (H157) that land be allocated at Polesworth/Dordon for 425 dwellings. He did not define a particular land parcel but the Inspector found that UK Coal land east of Dordon was the site at Polesworth/Dordon put before him which he found to be acceptable. It is therefore requested that the Local Plan be amended by the inclusion of an allocation of 425 on the UK Coal east of Dordon. In addition supporting text should be included in the Local Plan which explains that a development brief is to be prepared which will identify the precise extent of the land to be developed in the period up to 2011."
"Although he stated that the site owned by UK Coal may be more acceptable than other sites that were before him at the Inquiry, the Inspector also stated however that there were a number of issues that needed further careful consideration. Housing numbers was therefore allocated towards Polesworth and Dordon but without a specific site being shown. This would need to come forward in the LDF and will be considered in the production of the Housing DPD."
"The reasons for the decision must be intelligible and they must be adequate. They must enable the reader to understand why the matter was decided as it was and what conclusions were reached on the "principal important controversial issues," disclosing how any issue of law or fact was resolved. Reasons can be briefly stated, the degree of particularity required depending entirely on the nature of the issues falling for decision. The reasoning must not give rise to substantial doubt as to whether the decision-maker erred in law, for example by misunderstanding some relevant policy or other important matter or by failing to reach a rational decision on relevant grounds. But such adverse inferences will not readily be drawn. The reasons need refer only to the main issues in the dispute, not to every material consideration. They should enable disappointed developers to assess their prospects of obtaining some alternative development permission, or, as the case may be, their unsuccessful opponents to understand how the policy or approach underlying the grant of permission may impact upon such future applications. Decision letters must be read in a straightforward manner, recognising that they are addressed to parties well aware of the issues involved and the arguments advanced. A reason challenge will only succeed if the aggrieved party can satisfy the court that he has genuinely been substantially prejudiced by the failure to provide an adequately reasoned decision."