Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd and Another: CA 17 Mar 2016

The parties challenged the interpretation of a paragraph (49) of the National Planning Policy: ‘In particular, they concern the meaning of the requirement in the policy that ‘[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’, and the way in which the policy is to be applied in the making of planning decisions.’
Held: The Court read the words ‘for the supply of housing’ as meaning ‘affecting the supply of housing’, which was regarded as not only the ‘literal interpretation’ of the policy, but ‘the only interpretation consistent with the obvious purpose of the policy when read in its context’.
Lindblom LJ referred to the relevant parts of the NPPF and (at para 21) the three competing interpretations of paragraph 49:
i) Narrow: limited to policies dealing only with the numbers and distribution of new housing, and excluding any other policies of the development plan dealing generally with the disposition or restriction of new development in the authority’s area.
ii) Wider: including both policies providing positively for the supply of new housing and other policies, or ‘counterpart’ policies, whose effect is to restrain the supply by restricting housing development in certain parts of the authority’s area.
iii) Intermediate: as under (ii), but excluding policies designed to protect specific areas or features, such as gaps between settlements, the particular character of villages or a specific landscape designation (as suggested by Ouseley J in the Barwood Land case).
Lindbloom LJ said: 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. It reflects the reality that policies may serve to form the supply of housing land either by creating it or by constraining it – that policies of both kinds make the supply what it is.’
The court rejected the ‘narrow’ interpretation, advocated by the councils, which it thought ‘plainly wrong’: ‘It is both unrealistic and inconsistent with the context in which the policy takes its place. It ignores the fact that in every development plan there will be policies that complement or support each other. Some will promote development of one type or another in a particular location, or by allocating sites for particular land uses, including the development of housing. Others will reinforce the policies of promotion or the site allocations by restricting development in parts of the plan area, either in a general way – for example, by preventing development in the countryside or outside defined settlement boundaries – or with a more specific planning purpose – such as protecting the character of the landscape or maintaining the separation between settlements.’
Jackson, Vos, Lindbloom LJJ
[2016] EWCA Civ 168, [2016] WLR(D) 151, [2016] PTSR 1315
Bailii, WLRD
England and Wales
Appeal fromCheshire East Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 25-Feb-2015
. .
Appeal fromHopkins Homes Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 30-Jan-2015
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Cited by:
Appeal fromSuffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd and Another SC 10-May-2017
The Court was asked as to the proper interpretation of paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework: ‘Housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Relevant policies for . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 12 May 2021; Ref: scu.561221