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When Housing Policies are Out of Date: Court of Appeal clarifies para 49 NPPF

Earlier today the Court of Appeal issued a judgment clarifying the proper interpretation of Paragraph 49 of the NPPF. 

Paragraph 49 states that:

"Housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption of sustainable development. Relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites".

The weight to be attached to planning policies by those deciding if permission should be granted  is often lessened if the policies are out of date.

As a result, the interpretation of  paragraph 49  has generated a lot of argument in the courts. In particular, over what constitutes a 'relevant policy for the supply of housing'.

The Court of Appeal has now confirmed that the policies referred to in paragraph 49 are any "relevant policies affecting the supply of housing".  

It is expressly stated by the Court that this can include local plan policies on development in the green belt, areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks, as well as those governing where homes should be build and how many are needed. 

The Court has also provided an extremely useful step by step guide to how the application of paragraph 49 should be approached by decision-makers.

For such a significant judgment it is remarkably concise (under 30 pages) and definitely worth taking the time to read in full.

Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Limited and SSCL  Richborough Estates Partnership LLP v Cheshire East Borough Council


The neutral citation number is:  [2016] EWCA  Civ 168

“33. Our interpretation of the policy does not confine the concept of “policies for the supply of housing” merely to policies in the development plan that provide positively for the delivery of new housing in terms of numbers and distribution or the allocation of sites. It recognizes that the concept extends to plan policies whose effect is to influence the supply of housing land by restricting the locations where new housing may be developed – including, for example, policies for the Green Belt, policies for the general protection of the countryside, policies for conserving the landscape of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks, policies for the conservation of wildlife or cultural heritage, and various policies whose purpose is to protect the local environment in one way or another by preventing or limiting development...."”