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Posted 13 July 2017
by Simon Catterall

Court of Appeal clarifies presumption in favour of sustainable development

Paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that a presumption in favour of sustainable development is at the heart of the NPPF and should be seen as a golden thread running through decision-taking. 

The NPPF says this means (1) approving development proposals that accord with the development plan and (2) where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date, granting permission unless:

  • any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits…; or
  • specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted.

In this case the Inspector on a planning appeal had granted planning permission for development on the basis of this presumption and because he considered that it represented sustainable development – despite the fact that the planning authority could demonstrate a 5 year land supply and development plan policies limited residential development in this location.

The authority appealed against the decision.  Both the High Court and now the Court of Appeal have confirmed that the presumption in favour of sustainable development only applies where there is no local plan in force, or there is some deficiency in it.  Once the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” in paragraph 14 of the NPPF is discounted the presumption has no further part to play in the decision.

It is not a general presumption and decisions must still be taken in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.  No doubt the decision will be welcomed by planning authorities as re-asserting the primacy of the development plan.  Interestingly in this case the Secretary of State agreed that the Inspector’s decision was wrong and it was the developer who took the case to the Court of Appeal.


See: Barwood Strategic Land II LLP v East Staffordshire Borough Council & Anor [2017] EWCA Civ 893

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About the author

Simon Catterall


Solicitor for the planning team