Herefordshire planning appeal stresses need for councils to meet Custom and Self Build demand

A Government Planning Inspector has granted outline planning permission for up to five Self Build homes in open countryside outside Bromsberrow Heath, a small village near Ledbury in Herefordshire. The appeal decision* overturned Forest of Dean District Council’s original refusal to grant outline planning permission, with the council’s activities around their duties under the Right to Build legislation proving a valuable material consideration. In addition, the appeal highlighted several interesting planning issues of interest for similar sites seeking permission for Custom or Self Build.

Importantly, the Council has a very recently adopted site allocations local plan and is able to show a five-year land supply. However, the Inspector noted that the proposal would in-part involve the development of brownfield land which would not constitute isolated homes in the countryside. The Inspector also concluded there was no reason that the scheme could not be designed to respect the local character of its setting or that it would adversely impact on the countryside.

In terms of sustainable transport, which is frequently flagged as an important planning issue in rural areas, the Inspector concluded that public transport options are likely to be more limited in rural areas, that residents would be able to benefit from the services of the village and transport impacts would be relatively limited.

Self and Custom Build weighting

In deciding the appeal, the Inspector gave weight to the legal requirement for the Council to meet the demand for people to build their own homes, as set out in the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, the National Planning Policy Framework and related Government Planning Practice Guidance.

Although the Council had some 73 households on its statutory ‘Right to Build’ Register and there was some dispute over the scale of demand, it had only given permission for 42 plots, 41 of which appear to have been granted via the appeal process.

The Inspector therefore concluded that given the lack of any clear policy within the Council’s development plan to support Custom and Self Build housing or evidence of local initiatives to promote it, there could not be any confidence that local demand would be met and, therefore, that five Custom or Self Build houses would help to address the demand in the local area.

The Inspector concluded that whilst the site was large enough to potentially trigger an affordable housing requirement, the National Planning Policy Framework provides an exemption from that requirement where the site is proposed to be developed by people who wish to build or commission their own homes.

The appeal highlights some important planning issues.

  • Firstly, that the extent to which Councils are meeting their duties under the 2015 Act is an important material planning consideration when determining planning applications, even if a Council can show a five-year land supply. Councils are therefore well advised to take steps to meet their statutory obligations, which the National Custom and Self Build Association’s Right to Build Task Force can help with.
  • Secondly, that even if a local plan is up to date, the absence of a policy to support Custom and Self Build can heighten the risk of Councils losing planning appeals, given the support which the National Planning Policy Framework gives to the need for Councils to plan for people who wish to commission or build their own homes.
  • Thirdly, the importance of applicants using a Unilateral Undertaking to give decision-makers confidence that the development will be delivered for Custom and Self Build housing.
  • Finally, that outline planning permission (or Permission in Principle) can count towards meeting demand on registers.

*(Appeal Ref: APP/P1615/W/18/3213122)

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