Planning loophole causes house building glut

11th Sep 2014

"Failure to meet unrealistic land supply targets" is cited as reason for development in 72% of appeals

A new research paper from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that steep targets for the amount of land councils must allocate for housing are opening the door to major housing developments in the countryside.

These targets are leading directly to the problem of ‘planning by appeal’ which has seen damaging developments such as the North Road and Dinting Road sites in Glossop decided by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, against the wishes of the local authority and local communities.

The paper, Targeting the countryside, studies the appeal decisions on applications for major housing developments on greenfield land across the country between March 2012 and May 2014. It finds that planning inspectors overturned the decisions of local councils in 72 per cent of cases where there was no defined land supply. 27,000 houses were granted planning permission in this way – which is around 8.5 per cent of all houses planned across the country in that period [1].

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local councils to demonstrate a five year land supply for housing in an attempt to boost house building. Councils without a local plan are powerless to decide where developments should go in their area, but only 17.6 per cent of councils have had plans approved by Government. This is often due to the onerous criteria in constructing viable plans [2].

Furthermore, those who have not managed to meet their targets face the punishment of finding an extra 20 per cent of land as a ‘buffer’ to ensure ‘choice and competition’.

Targeting the countryside is based on research which looked at 309 planning appeal decisions across England between March 2012 and May 2014 where local councils had rejected applications for developments of 10 or more houses on greenfield land. The research also shows that one in six local refusals was overturned by a planning inspector even when a council was meeting its targets. 

Andrew Wood, planning officer at Friends of the Peak District, comments: “Local councils are being pushed to supply too much land in pursuit of unrealistic housing targets. This puts the Local Plan process under great strain, and any council that can’t demonstrate a 5-year land supply, based on these inflated targets, then faces the likelihood of losing planning appeals. High Peak is suffering badly from this problem.

It tends to be controversial sites, such as those at North Road and Dinting Road in Glossop, where this is happening. The result is that the decisions local people most object to are being made by central Government. This makes a mockery of the Local Plan process, destroys people’s faith in planning and encourages unnecessary house-building in the countryside.

The Government should remove the automatic presumption for development where there is no five year land supply. It should immediately stop demanding an extra 20 per cent housing land requirement from councils already struggling to meet targets. And it should enable local councils to resist speculative planning applications on controversial sites before the Local Plan has been completed.
 

ENDS

[1] Targeting the countryside: the impact of housing land supply requirements on green spaces and local democracy is available here: http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/housing-and-planning/housing/item/download/3729

[2] These criteria include finding the required land to meet demanding short-term housing targets, discarding recent house building rates, and compensating for ‘under delivery’ of housing in the past even if those previous targets had been agreed with and approved by Government.

[3] The regional breakdown of appeals examined is as follows:
East Midlands: 54
East of England: 23
National Parks: 1
North East: 9
North West: 52
South East: 60
South West: 59
West Midlands: 33
Yorkshire: 18