Planning Loophole Allows Councils to be Overruled

A report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has revealed that housing targets set for councils has enabled developers to bypass opposition and build on greenfield sites.

The report, ‘Targeting the countryside’, examined appeal decisions for major housing developments built on greenfield land between March 2012 and May 2014.  The study found that 22,000 houses were built on land that had been disputed by councils and local residents.  In 72 per cent of cases planning inspectors overturned the decisions of local councils where there was no defined land supply.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local councils are required to provide a five year land supply for housing.  NPPF was set up in March 2012 in an attempt to boost housing numbers and help to tackle the current shortage of properties.  However, only 17.6 per cent of councils have had their local plans confirmed by government officials.  Additionally, regardless of opposition, councils without a long term plan face developments being authorised.

Councils that fail to meet housing targets must find an extra 20 per cent of land as a ‘buffer’ to ensure ‘choice and competition’. Furthermore, even when a council was found to meet its targets, the research found that one in six local refusals was overturned by a planning inspector.

Planning Officer at the CPRE John Rowley, said: “These figures show that current policy is encouraging unnecessary house building in the countryside against the wishes of local people. We need to see a more transparent and less punitive system which does not allow unrealistic housing targets to override local concerns.

“The Government should remove the automatic presumption for development where there is no five year land supply. It should also immediately stop demanding an extra 20 per cent housing requirement from councils already struggling to meet targets.

“We support the Government’s desire to simplify planning and meet the urgent need for new homes. Yet councils must be provided with detailed guidance on housing targets, and brownfield land must be prioritised so that unnecessary greenfield development is not so blatantly and regularly allowed through the back door.”

The CPRE research examined 309 planning appeal decisions from across England where local councils had rejected applications for development of 10 or more houses on greenfield land.