Over 6,000 housing refusals overturned on appeal

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Over 6,000 new homes will now be built after councillors’ housing refusals were overturned on appeal, new research has revealed

National planning and development consultancy Lichfields analysed rejected planning applications for developments of 50 homes or more in situations where officers recommend approval but Councillors issued housing refusals.

The research titled, Refused for good reason?  found that of the 78 appeals in 2017, where a refusal was made against planning officer recommendations, almost two thirds (65%) were later allowed, amounting to over 6,000 homes. This compares to just 40% where officers had recommended refusal.

In 35% of cases – equating 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.

Rachel Clements, Associate Director at Lichfields, 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.”

The research shows that five-year housing land supply featured as a main issue in the majority of the appeals – 55 out of 78.

Whilst the majority of appeals were located within authorities without an up-to-date Local Plan, this did not seem to have a significant impact on the outcome of the appeals.

Lichfields found that appeals were most often allowed when councillors had refused on the grounds of highways and other transport related issues – 74%.

Other successful grounds for an appeal included;

  • impact on character – 68%
  • sustainable development – 67%
  • Height and scale of development – 59%.

The research focused on England, Scotland and Wales and found that over 50% of relevant appeals were in Conservative-controlled authorities, compared to 14% in those run by the Labour Party.

Lichfields suggest a number of remedies to improve decision making at the local planning authority level. These include:

  • Seeking independent advice where there is disagreement between the planning officer and members on a technical issue before a decision is confirmed.
  • Allowing for a ‘cooling off’ period whereby impartial advice can be sought about appeal prospects before a refusal is confirmed.
  • An obligation for the Local Planning Authority to publish statistics on its decision making
  • Offering bespoke training to planning committee members particularly in Councils with higher rates of allowed appeals.
  • Extending the Secretary of State’s powers to designate local planning authorities where higher rates of Councillors decisions are being overturned at appeal.

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