There is sometimes uncertainty about whether it is required or permissible to provide an inspector with updated information. A recent court case, Robinson v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 22/1/16, provides a steer in respect of housing land supply figures, but is it in the right direction?
A Suffolk resident opposing an inspector’s decision to grant permission for 14 dwellings on an open gap separating two settlements which was used as a community garden claimed that the council should have provided the inspector with updated information on housing land supply. The inspector had decided that in the absence of a five-year supply of housing land, policies restricting the use of open gaps and gardens should be given limited weight, and granted permission. The resident argued that the council should have provided the inspector with updated information which demonstrated that it now had 5.4 years’ supply of housing land.
You can see the resident’s point of view here, the reasoning being that if the inspector had known that the council had an adequate supply of housing land the outcome of the appeal might have been different. Nevertheless, the judge ruled that there was no requirement under the Town and Country Planning (Appeals)(Written Representations Procedure)(England) Regulations 2009 for the local planning authority to update its evidence once new information had come to light, and the inspector’s decision stood. The judge explained that there is a need to safeguard against any and every correction and any new information should be reliable, objective and uncontentious; this prevents the late introduction of unreliable, unverifiable and contentious material.
If we are not to return to a backlog in the legal system worthy of the Court of Chancery there has to be a line drawn somewhere. However, important new evidence surely ought to be recognised as such in the interests of natural justice.
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 5.34