How do you solve the problem of planning for 300,000 homes per annum? Add a 35 per cent uplift to the largest urban centres in England, of course.
From 16 June 2021, National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) sets out that there will be an additional stage in the Standard Method calculation which adds a ‘Cities and Urban Centres Uplift’ of 35% in England’s top 20 largest cities and urban centres, based on Office of National Statistics (ONS) calculations. This has been known from the back end of 2020 when Robert Jenrick outlined the changes in a Written Ministerial Statement.
In what we believe is the first appeal case to turn to the 35 per cent uplift in allowing housing on unallocated sites, we take a look at the context and implications of the ruling and uplift to the Standard Method.
Appeal Reference: APP/J4423/W/21/3267168
Site: Land at Junction with Carr Road and Hollin Busk Lane, Sheffield S36 2SS
Decision: Appeal Allowed
Decision Date: 10 August 2021
Context to the Appeal
In July 2020, Sheffield City Council refused a development proposal for a scheme of up to 75 dwellings in the village of Deepcar, located on the eastern fringe of the town of Stocksbridge, 7 miles north west of Sheffield city centre. The site in question comprises a number of agricultural fields and sits adjacent to – but not within – the Green Belt. An Area of Natural History Interest and Local Wildlife Site run along its north western boundary, and a small cluster of Grade II Listed Building adjoin its eastern boundary.
The Development Plan Documents against which the application was assessed were the saved policies of the Sheffield Unitary Development Plan (UDP), adopted in 1998, and the Sheffield Development Framework Core Strategy, adopted in 2009.
The main issues arising from the Council’s decision to refuse the application were:
- The effect of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the surrounding area;
- The effect of the proposed development on the special interest of nearby heritage assets; and
- The planning balance, including policy considerations, and the benefits of the scheme (including housing land supply).
In the appeal report, the Inspector did not attach weight in his determination to the emerging draft Sheffield Local Plan, which had not (and remains the case to date) progressed beyond the first stage of preparation (Issues and Options Consultation). The basket of UDP and Core Strategy policies referred to in the Council’s reasons for refusal were also unsurprisingly deemed to be out of date and inconsistent with the NPPF, therefore engaging the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ set out at paragraph 11(d) of the Framework.
Housing Land Supply
The Council purported a 5.4 year housing land supply, which was set out in a Monitoring Report dated December 2020. This was based on a local housing need figure utilising the Standard Method of 2,131 dwellings per annum, plus a 5% buffer, resulting in a total requirement of 11,188 dwellings. However, this position was successfully challenged by the appellant who calculated that when applying the 35% ‘Cities and Urban Centres Uplift’ to the Standard Method (which, from 16 June 2021, was required of all local authorities in the top 20 cities and urban centres), the Council would be unable to demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply. The Inspector agreed with this position and found the ‘tilted balance’ to have been triggered, notwithstanding the fact that the policies most important to determining the appeal were also out of date.
In what is likely to be the first consideration of the Cities and Urban Uplift at appeal, the Inspector made clear to the Council in his report that “the requirements of the urban uplift [apply] from 16 June 2021 and there are no provisions to opt-out of avoiding the effect of the uplift from this date.”
This decision will undoubtedly not only have implications for schemes going through planning in Sheffield, where clearly the ‘tilted balance’ now applies and could form an alternative route to achieving planning consent, but also within the other 19 authorities that are subject to the Cities and Urban Centres Uplift. This will especially be the case where housing land supply positions are already weak or have very recently been defended at appeal, but without the application of the uplift. It is also likely that this decision will establish a precedence from which other recent decisions in uplift authority areas can be re-challenged on the same basis.
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