Council accused of having a track record of failure on first day of crunch Milton Keynes planning inquiry

The council was accused of having a track record of failing to supply the housing needs of Milton Keynes at the opening of a crunch public inquiry.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 5:20 pm

Developer Wavendon Properties wants its housebuilding arm, Storey Homes, to be allowed to build up to 203 new homes on land off Cranfield Road, in Woburn Sands.

“There has been a shortfall in the supply of affordable housing year after year,” said the developer’s lawyer, Peter Goatley at the first day of a public inquiry on Tuesday.

He went on to accuse the council of having a “poor record” of predicting when homes would be built, using flawed methods of calculating land available for housing, and of having “illusory” faith in its numbers.

The planning inspector, left, opens the inquiry with the developer's team, right

In a broad-ranging attack, he said members of Milton Keynes Council’s development control committee had used “confused reasons” for rejecting the plan, against the advice of its officers.

The developer’s case had been thrown out by another planning inspector, and supported right the way up to the secretary of state.

But the High Court, in a shock ruling announced last July, quashed the secretary of state’s decision and re-opened the appeal.

The judge decided that Milton Keynes Council could not prove it has a five year supply of housing land.

The lack of a legally required supply of land for housing makes it much more difficult for planners to stop housing applications.

Without a land supply decisions become tilted in favour of developers, which some councillors fear could open Milton Keynes up for unplanned so called speculative developments.

The council sees its five year land supply figures as provable, and officers were urged by the development control committee to put everything they had into the defence.

In his opening statement at Margaret Powell House, in Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes Council’s barrister, Reuben Taylor QC, insisted that planners can prove, site-by-site that they have a five year supply of housing land.

“The delivery of housing is consistently improving since Plan:MK was approved,” said Mr Taylor. “In 2018-19 delivery was achieved for the first time since 2007-08 and housing delivery is likely to be met this year.”

He said the developer’s case “fails to have regard to the proper circumstances”.

He urged government planning inspector Tom Gilbert-Wooldridge to dismiss the developer’s arguments.

The public inquiry is scheduled to last eight days, with four of them put aside for the inspector to consider the finer details of the arguments over the council’s housing land supply.

Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton) said the proposed site was not included in the borough’s development plan, which was supported by the government.

“The inspector did not support the site’s inclusion for housing, it has been identified as countryside,” he said.

Cllr Jacky Jefferies, of Woburn Sands Town Council, said: “The site is open countryside and is not available for development. If local plans mean anything, why is this site being considered?”

The hearing, which is open to the public, continues.