Case law - NPPF’s presumption of sustainable development
- Business & Industry ,
- Built environment ,
A High Court ruling on the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
In Forest of Dean District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Gladman Developments Ltd , the High Court considered the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in para 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) where a competing policy restricting development applies.
Paragraph 14 imposes a presumption in favour of sustainable development if a development plan is absent or silent or if relevant policies are out of date. The presumption does not apply if: adverse impacts from granting consent significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits (so-called ‘limb 1’); or a specific policy in the NPPF indicates that development should be restricted (‘limb 2’). Paragraph 134 requires any harm that is less than substantial to the significance of a designated heritage asset to be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal.
In Forest of Dean, the planning inspector found that the presumption applied because: the council was unable to show that a five-year housing supply and the adverse impacts, which included less than substantial harm to a listed asset, did not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the NPPF as a whole.
In other words, the inspector applied the test in limb 1. The High Court took issue with this approach, saying para 134 was a restrictive policy under limb 2 and required harm to be weighed, in the ordinary way, against the benefits of the proposal. The court reiterated the view in R (Forge Field Society) v Sevenoaks DC  that harm to a listed building must be given considerable importance and weight.
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