House builders can take some comfort from the planning inspector's view at the Central Lancashire Examination in Public that non-compliance with RSS housing figures would make the Central Lancashire Core Strategy unsound, according to planning and urban design consultancy Turley Associates.
The view follows the Court of Appeal ruling in Cala Homes and was reinforced on Tuesday 12 July by the planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to examine the Central Lancashire Core Strategy, prepared by Preston City, South Ribble and Chorley Councils.
The draft Central Lancashire Core Strategy proposes housing targets to 2026 at 20% below those set out in the adopted RSS for the first two years of the plan, with no indication of housing numbers beyond that period. Objectors challenged the plan on the basis that this was not in accordance with RSS and that the councils had provided no evidence to support a different figure which would be a significant barrier to the plan's overall strategy for economic growth.
On the final day of the Examination in Public, the planning inspector announced that he is likely to find the Central Lancashire Core Strategy unsound and will be recommending that it be amended to include the adopted RSS housing targets as a minimum. In making that recommendation he had regard to the Government's growth agenda which recognises the clear link between housing development and economic growth.
After representing one of the UK's leading house builders at the two week hearing, Turley Associates believes the recommendation will be welcomed by house builders.
Sam Ryan, a director in the Manchester office of Turley Associates, said: "This was an important hearing where a large number of the UK's leading house builders were represented. The Inspector has not only followed the principle established in the Cala Homes decision earlier this year, but also set down a clear marker supporting the importance of the house building industry to economic recovery.
"The message to local authorities is quite clear; they cannot bring forward Core Strategies with lower housing numbers unless there is a clear evidence base to do so. This will continue to apply even when RSSs are revoked following enactment of the Localism Bill. This is a commonsense decision and one that will be welcomed by house builders.
"The Central Lancashire Core Strategy with the Inspectors recommendations must now be reported back to the respective local authorities to be agreed. This process may take two or three months to approve. If it is not approved the entire Core Strategy is likely to be rejected as 'unsound' which would set the sub-region back some 18 months."