Despite 7 years, 5 applications, two Public Inquiries, three appearances in the High Court and twice in the Court of Appeal, DPDS Consulting achieved a resolution to South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) Appeal against the High Court’s refusal to grant Permission to bring a Statutory Review of the Planning Inspector’s decision, when it was refused by the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Hickinbottom in the Court of Appeal earlier this week. After many twists and turns, this is a major victory for the DPDS team and their client, Claire Engbers, with the granting of planning permission for up to 95 dwellings, conversion of barn to four dwelling units and associated public open space and landscaping at Thames Farm, Reading Road, Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames.
SODC were seeking to appeal the order made in November 2017 which refused permission to proceed with a s288 application to quash a further decision made by Mr Justice Holgate dated 2nd August 2017 which allowed DPDS to Appeal on behalf of their client against the refusal by SODC of their application for outline planning permission for a residential development of 95 dwellings, 40% of which will be affordable at a site near Shiplake, Oxfordshire.
The full decision can be read here, but in essence, SODC were citing three grounds:
- SODC contended that Mr Justice Holgate erred in concluding that it was unarguable that the inspector had failed to give adequate reasons for applying the appropriate 20% buffer to the existing housing shortfall as well as the requirement going forward;
- SODC contended that Mr Justice Holgate erred in concluding that the Inspector had not arguably erred in failing properly to address the conflict between the development proposal and the development plan spatial strategy, particularly in failing to consider whether the development would be in breach of NDP Policy H1; and
- SODC argued that Mr J Holgate erred in concluding that, even if he had been wrong in relation to one or both grounds, he would have still have found that it was inevitable that the Inspector’s decision would have been the same.
In addressing each of the grounds presented, the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Hickinbottom concluded that in the absence of any evidence or case for Point 1, the Inspector had been entitled to apply the buffer to the existing shortfall and his decision was uncontroversial and furthermore was clearly entitled to rely on other appeal decisions which had consistently adopted this approach. As a result, the Inspector properly proceeded on the basis that a 3-year housing supply had not been shown.
Turning to Point 2, the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Hickinbottom stated that the judge was clearly entitled to conclude that the Inspector was mindful of the policy and although perhaps the point could be have been better communicated in the final part of the decision, he plainly took into account the fact that the proposal did not accord with the housing distribution policy. Furthermore, it was appropriate that overriding weight was given to the chronic and dire shortage of housing land, the benefits of the proposal in helping to address that shortage and the relative lack of harm in allowing the development. The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Hickinbottom concluded that he did not consider any of the other forensic points made on behalf of SODC had any greater force.
In conclusion, the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Hickinbottom advised that he did not consider either of the first two grounds cited to be arguable and in light of this, felt it unnecessary to consider the third.
DPDS Group Managing Director Les Durrant commented: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome from the Court of Appeal. At last this matter has been brought to closure in favour of our client and we can deliver the much-needed housing. It is just a pity that so much political energy, not to mention tax payers money, has been wasted on trying to stop a high quality housing development with 40% affordable housing content in an area of high house prices and high housing need, particularly after officers had recommended the scheme for approval.”