All singing from the same hymn sheet?

A correspondent writes:

The Talaton appeal decision summarised on “the Watch” recently, intrigued me. It brought to mind another recent appeal, Down Close, Newton Poppleford, dated 29 May 2015, in which the Inspector similarly upheld EDDC’s decision to reject the application but also threw doubt on whether EDDC can demonstrate a 5 year land supply. Something crucial to adoption of the Local Plan.

Two different Inspectors are involved and they are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet. Inspector Thickett is due to produce his report on the Examination in Public of EDDC’s Local Plan fairly soon. If he comes from the same broad church as the Appeal Inspectors then we might expect EDDC to get a rough ride on its housing needs and numbers. Could they be so unconvincing as to return us to a developers’ free for all?

Here is an extract of what Inspector Ball wrote about Newton Poppleford at the end of March:

“Just before my site visit the Council submitted a housing monitoring update purporting to show that it can now demonstrate a 5.45 year supply, including a 20% buffer due to previous under-supply.

I have reservations about this. Following significant objections by the Local Plan Inspector, proposed modifications to the NEDLP are currently out to consultation; the new objective assessment of housing need has not been fully tested; and the appellants raise serious concerns about the development timescales of several major sites relied on by the Council, throwing doubt on their deliverability within the 5 year period. These are matters to be tested and resolved by the Local Plan Inspector. For this appeal, as things stand, I do not consider that it is possible to conclude with any confidence that the Council can demonstrate a 5-year supply of deliverable housing sites.”

And here is an extract of what Inspector Preston said at on 24 August:

From the information in front of me, the Council has not demonstrated that previous under delivery has been accounted for within its five-year supply calculations. Even if the previous under-delivery has been accounted for within the estimated need of 17,100 identified within the SHMA, which is not certain, the way in which the Council have addressed the previous under-supply is not consistent with the aim of addressing it within the first five years, where possible. In the Council’s projection the 17,100 has been split evenly over the plan period, ‘the ‘Liverpool’ method. Whilst the PPG is not prescriptive in stating that any under-deliver must be recovered within the first five years it sets a clear preference for this approach, ‘where possible’. No evidence was presented by the Council to suggest that it would not be possible to recover any previous under-supply over the next five years and the Local Plan Inspector has previously written to the Council to advocate the ‘Sedgefield’ approach with the aim of boosting housing supply.

“Moreover, I have concerns that the projected delivery rates for the new settlement at Cranbrook are not supported by clear evidence. The predicted completion rate for the two phases of the development over each of the following five years is 467 dwellings per annum. However, the March 2015 HMU identifies that there had been 757 completions between ‘summer’ 2012 and August 2014. It is not clear when development commenced but the published completion rate suggests a figure in the region of 350 to 375 dwellings per year over the two year period.

The Council suggested orally at the Hearing that there is evidence to suggest that delivery rates are likely to increase but no firm evidence was submitted to show how the predicted delivery rates had been derived. In effect, those predictions show an increase of approximately 100 dwellings a year at the site, over and above the published rate of completion to date. That rate of delivery is not supported by the evidence presented to me.”