Student housing and the five-year land supply

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The High Court has dismissed a council's claim that an Inspector wrongly failed to take sufficient account of forthcoming student accommodation when considering five-year general housing land supply.

The High Court has dismissed Exeter City Council's claim that an Inspector wrongly failed to take sufficient account of forthcoming student accommodation when considering five-year general housing land supply. However, if new student accommodation would release housing to the general market, that could be taken into account.

The Council appealed against an Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for 120 new homes. The key issue was whether the Inspector had been right to exclude student accommodation from the calculation of the Council’s five-year housing land supply.

The Council had sought to include all pipeline student accommodation (other than traditional halls of residence) within its five-year supply figure. It had not, however, included student accommodation in its assessment of housing requirement.

The High Court upheld the Inspector’s finding that, in the circumstances, the provision of student accommodation did not contribute to any specific extent in meeting the identified housing requirement.

However, it was not the case (as the developer had argued) that student accommodation—if not included in the assessment of requirement—could never be taken into account in the assessment of five-year supply. On the contrary, PPG 3.38 is clear that student accommodation can be included, “based on the amount of accommodation it releases in the general market”.

Here, there was no evidence that the provision of student-specific accommodation had released housing to the general market in Exeter. In fact, due to the growing student population in the city, since the start of the plan period students had occupied an additional 700 general market dwellings. There was no error of law in the Inspector’s decision.

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