The Supreme Court has clarified the interpretation of para 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the NPPF's relationship with the statutory development plan.

The court rejected appeals by the local authorities in Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd and another and Richborough Estates Partnership LLP and another v Cheshire East Borough Council.

In Suffolk, the High Court had ruled that the planning inspector had erred in thinking that para 49 applied only to “policies dealing with the positive provision of housing” and so quashed his refusal. In Richborough, the High Court concluded the inspector had erred in treating one of the local policies as a relevant policy under para 49.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court said: ‘The NPPF makes clear that, as respects the determination of planning applications, it is no more than “guidance” and as such a “material consideration” for the purposes of s 70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It cannot, and does not purport to, displace the primacy of the statutory development plan. It must be exercised consistently with, and not so as to displace or distort, the statutory scheme.’