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6,000 homes approved on appeal, report suggests

Words: Laura Edgar
Planning appeals

In 2017, 65 per cent of 78 appeals that were recommended for approval by council planning officers but rejected by councillors were overturned at appeal, resulting in the approval of 6,000 homes, according to a report.

The report, Refused for Good Reason, also found that 40 per cent of homes were approved on appeal when an officer’s recommendation was refusal and councillors also rejected the application.  

The report says that in 35 per cent of cases, which equates to 4,000 homes, councillors were justified in overturning officer recommendations, with the appeal being dismissed by a planning inspector or the secretary of state.

Refused for Good Reason stats

  • Research identifies 309 appeals for schemes of 50 residential units or more decided in 2017. 25 per cent (78) were refused by councillors against a planning officer recommendation for approval.
  • Of those 78, 65 per cent were overturned at appeal, meaning around 6,000 homes have been green-lit.
  • 74 per cent of appeals where councillors refused for highways reasons were allowed on appeal.
  • 54 per cent of appeals where councillor refused for landscape reasons were allowed on appeal.
  • 64 per cent of appeals where refusal was against officer recommendation were within a local authority area that doesn’t have a post-NPPF local plan.

Rachel Clements, associate director at planning consultancy Lichfields, which produced the report, said: “The delivery of housing is at the top of the political agenda. But, whilst there has been lots of focus on planning policies and housing delivery, very little attention has been given to the quality of decision-making.

“Our research has shown that in some instances developers are being pushed into an unnecessarily expensive and time consuming appeal process, on the basis of local decision-making that proves less resilient at appeal than where officers recommended refusal.”

According to the research, a five-year housing supply was one of the main issues in the majority of appeals – 55 out of the 78. The majority of these were found in local authority areas without an up-to-date local plan, although Lichfield noted that did not seem to have a “significant” impact on the outcome of the appeals.

The report says that appeals are most often allowed (74 per cent) when councillors had refused an application on highways and transport related issues.

Considering England, Scotland and Wales, the research also states that over 56 per cent of appeals considered were in Conservative-controlled local authorities, while 14 per cent and 27 per cent were in Labour-controlled and no overall controlled local authorities respectively.

Lichfields has suggested a number of ways decision-making at a local level could be improved, including:

  • Seeking independent advice where there is disagreement between the planning officer and members on a technical issue before a decision is confirmed.
  • Extending the secretary of state’s powers to designate local planning authorities where higher rates of decisions made by councillors are being overturned at appeal.
  • Offering bespoke training to planning committee members particularly in councils with higher rates of allowed appeals.

The report can be found here on the Lichfields website (pdf).