Last Friday (21st April) appears to have been a 'deck-clearing' day for the National Planning Casework Unit.  

In what was, no doubt,  a last minute effort to release decisions before the start of the purdah period for the general election, the Secretary of State issued seven recovered planning appeal decisions  in a single day. 

All seven of the recovered appeals related to residential development schemes, comprising a total of 805 potential new homes. 

The Secretary of State refused all but one of the appeals - quashing the hope of 725 new dwellings and permitting the creation of only 80 new homes. 

Despite the current rhetorical and political push to increase house-building (and in particular the Secretary of State's recent attacks on "nimby-ism" and a lack of delivery by house-builders and local councils alike); the Secretary of State's purported reasons for these refusals are depressingly familiar - particularly in the run up to an election.

Three appeals were refused on the basis of conflicts with the local Neighbourhood Plan. In all three appeal decisions the local planning authority in question did not have a five-year housing land supply (and in fact had a significant shortfall) and the Inspector had recommended that the appeal be approved. 

One appeal was refused, against the Inspector's recommendation, as the Secretary of State held it to be inappropriate development in the green belt. Another appeal was also refused on green-belt grounds, but this time in-line with the Inspector's recommendation.

The final refusal also followed the Inspector's recommendation and was due to a finding that the 'less than substantial harm' caused by the scheme to  the setting of a listed building was not outweighed by the benefits brought by the proposed development.

In total 580 of the 725 homes refused permission had been recommended for approval by the Secretary of State’s planning inspectors.

In short, as is often the case, the themes of the refusals were:

  • Localism/ Neighbourhood Planning
  • Protecting the Green Belt; and
  • Conserving heritage assets.

You can call me cynical if you like (you would not be the first to do so), but that list feels an awful lot like the core messages on planning in an election manifesto...