Pickles previously issued a notification on the appeal in February in which he said he was 'minded' to approve the proposals subject to the submission of a 'satisfactory' planning obligation to address affordable housing deficiencies. The SoS said in his decision letter (48-page / 321KB PDF) that the parties had subsequently agreed a revised planning obligation.
In his February decision, Pickles had taken note of Cheshire East Council's lack of a five year housing land supply as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which he said was a "material consideration that reduces the weight that he attaches to the development plan policies for the supply of housing".
Following this, the Council sent a letter to Pickles in March advising him that it had published an updated Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLLA) which showed a housing land supply of more than five years.
However, Pickles said in his decision letter that he had "carefully considered" the updated SHLLA and said that he was not persuaded, on the evidence before him, that it provided a "robust assessment" of a five year land supply.
"The SoS is of the view that the Council has not demonstrated a five year supply of deliverable housing sites against even the most favourable assessment of the five year housing requirement. The SoS finds this a factor weighing in support of the proposed development," the letter said.
Pickles said that, although the proposals were contrary to the Council's development plan, the lack of housing supply engaged the NPPF's presumption in favour of sustainable development. He said he considered the proposal to represent sustainable development and that there were no adverse impacts which "significantly and demonstrably" outweighed the benefits of granting permission.
The Council said it was disappointed at the decision and at Pickles' conclusion that it could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply, according to local reports. Council leader Michael Jones said that the Council would be "exploring all our possible options in order to reconsider our position and carefully choose our next steps".
Jones argued that the Council was able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply using the so-called 'Liverpool' method under which any shortfall of housing supply from previous years is spread across the remaining local plan period. Pickles used the so-called Sedgefield' method to calculate Cheshire East's position, under which the shortfall is added to the first five years of the plan. "It's what we failed on," said Jones.