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Nearly half of housebuilders are 'serial appealers'

Words: Huw Morris

Confidence in the planning system is plummeting amid a culture of 'planning by appeal', according to a poll of housebuilders.

A survey of 100 housebuilders by law firm Gowling WLG found almost half are “serial appealers”, bringing more than 30 per cent of rejected applications to appeal.

Three-quarters buy more land with pre-existing planning permission than they did 10 years ago. Almost four-fifths place speeding up planning decisions at the top of a wish list for regional devolution, urging mayors to unlock stalled sites in their areas.

The survey reveals almost two-thirds had appealed in the past 18 months.

Gowling WLG says this suggests housebuilders view the process of appealing as more efficient than resubmitting amended applications, with 40 per cent of rejections reversed on appeal.

“This volume of successful appeals is almost certainly caused by an absence in some areas of up-to-date local plans,” said Gowling WLG planning partner Vicky Fowler. “If authorities do not have an up-to-date local plan and are unable to demonstrate that at least five years’ worth of land has been allocated for local housing, then development on sites that could or should have been allocated to this need are very likely to succeed on appeal if initially rejected.”

The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 requires planning authorities to set out policies addressing strategic land use priorities as well as identifying housing sites which will deliver at least a five-year housing supply.

If these plans have not been made by April 2018, then the secretary of state has the power to intervene and take the preparation of local plans out of the hands of a single authority or, as a last resort, start this work on behalf of the council. 

“Planning by appeal is frustratingly inefficient and evidence of a system that requires immediate change,” Fowler added. “While the introduction of measures to encourage local plans are a step in the right direction, this will increase the need for housebuilders to promote sites that they feel are suitable for development, consulting with councils directly to increase the chances of planning success.”

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