Monday, 18 November 2013
Planning by appeal
The natives are getting restless. NIMBYs in the Tory shires, their councillors and now back-bench Tory MPs in Middle England are getting upset about the number of planning appeals for significant housing developments that are being allowed on greenfield sites after they have been rejected by councillors.
This is the inevitable effect of the NPPF in the absence of up-to-date local plans that identify at least 5-yearsworth of housing land in their areas which is genuinely available for development within that time-span. If enough housing land is not allocated in adopted or emerging plans, then planning appeals on suitably located sites that could or should be allocated are very likely to succeed, whether the locals like it or not. Merely asserting that there is a 5-year housing land supply is not enough; appeal inspectors have been persuaded to view the figures critically and have decided in some cases that the council’s estimate cannot be relied upon.
No-one should be surprised by this. I wrote in this blog as long ago as November 2011:
“In the absence of regional housing targets or similar centrally imposed policies, planning by appeal is the only means by which the reluctance of local planning authorities to allow sufficient development in their areas can be overcome. This approach might arguably be an unsatisfactory way in which to deliver much-needed development, but the government has left themselves little option, having abandoned a more structured policy-based approach.”
Attempted High Court challenges to some of these appeal decisions have mostly failed, and so the ‘score’ of housing developments allowed on appeal is steadily rising. Much the same happened in the 1980s, when a similar requirement was imposed by Circular 9/80. The chorus of dissent gradually grew to a crescendo, until Maggie Thatcher was persuaded to throw the levers into reverse in 1987, and we then got ‘plan-led development’ instead.
I would not like to predict if or when the coalition government might be persuaded to pull back from its present policy on this issue, but the approach of a General Election in May 2015 could prove to be a persuasive factor. The performance of UKIP in local and European elections in May 2014 could have a strong influence on the government’s thinking on this issue (among several others). Videbimus.
© MARTIN H GOODALL