Earlier today, Planning Resource published a report on a research project that Irwin Mitchell has been carrying out over the last few months, which appears to show a link between how requests to recover an appeal or 'call-in' a planning application are treated by the Secretary of State and the political 'colour' of the relevant LPA.
The research shows that 64 of the 69 decisions called-in applications or recovered appeals involving housing proposals issued in communities secretary Sajid Javid’s name since he took office last June involved sites in Conservative constituencies.
Additionally, the research highlighted 14 cases involving some 2,500 homes in which Javid refused permission against inspectors’ recommendations. All but one of these decisions related to development in Tory-held constituencies.
We will all remember, from our sciences classes in school, that correlation does not equate to causation - but these statistics do demonstrate a pattern that is hard to overlook.
A significant number of the refusals involved disagreements between the Secretary of State and Inspectors in relation to the importance of neighbourhood plan policies - an area in which two key Tory planning priorities: localism and the need to increase housing numbers often collide. It appears from the research, that when it comes to neighbourhood plans prepared in Conservative councils at least, that localism is currently winning out.
If you have a subscription to Planning Resource, I strongly recommend reading the report in full. It provides a balanced and considered analysis of the data uncovered by the research, as well as providing interesting thoughts from other industry professionals about how and why the pattern may have emerged in the first place.
A link to the report can be found below.
Matthew Spry, senior director at consultancy Lichfields. "Conservative seats are focused more in rural areas, so it’s more likely they will encounter greenfield schemes that attract call-in or recovery. It’s the same with NDPs – 79 per cent of made neighbourhood plans are in Conservative-controlled councils, but these make up only 54 per cent of all councils." David Bainbridge, a... partner at consultants Bidwells, "Conservative controlled councils in the South East and East of England are subject to significant growth pressures." In that event, he said, "the more vocal and motivated opposition will use political connections to assist their case". He added: "If local politicians support the proposed development, ministerial intervention is less likely. But many of us have the feeling that more appeals are recovered, or at least that more are refused, in the run-up to a general election."