Exeter fails in High Court challenge regarding student accommodation and housing supply

Exeter fails in High Court challenge regarding student accommodation and housing supply

On 8 January 2015 we posted on the outcome of a planning appeal submitted by Waddedon Park against a refusal by Exeter City Council to grant planning permission for 120 dwellings at Home Farm, Pinhoe. 

The Council challenged that outcome in the High Court, but the High Court has upheld the grant of planning permission. This will have ramifications for the housing supply that the Council is able to demonstrate, leaving it with a potential shortfall against the 5 year measure and more vulnerable at appeal on housing developments.

The Inspector’s decision in the first appeal was controversial, as notwithstanding the guidance set out in Planning Practice Guidance, the Council was not permitted to include student accommodation within its housing supply figures.  The resulting shortfall in the Council’s 5 year housing supply was a strong consideration in favour of the appeal being granted, which it duly was as described in our article above.

The Council challenged the Inspector’s decision and a hearing took place in the High Court on 8 June 2015.  The judgment is available here.  It is relatively brief, and strongly upholds the Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission.  

Interestingly, the Council’s request to introduce new evidence setting out the proportion of the Council’s housing requirement attributable to the student population was refused. The reasons given for this were that:

  1. such evidence was controversial, and would necessitate a response from the developer.
  2. it was much too late to ‘deploy’ the evidence, as the Council had not previously relied on a particular portion of the housing requirement being attributable to student accommodation and there was no evidence in front of the Inspector to allow an assessment of that proportion.
  3. even if the Council could demonstrate a particular proportion was attributable to student accommodation, it would not have been determinative of the application.

Further, the judge found that even if he were to have decided that the Inspector had acted unlawfully in relation to the housing supply issue, he would have exercised his discretion not to quash the permission, noting that ‘given the Inspector’s findings on harm (which the Council does not, and could not, dispute), whichever way the Inspector had proceeded, she would have inevitably come to the conclusion to which she did in fact come, i.e. that planning permission should be granted‘.

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