Planning Inspectorate Updates Appeal Statistics

The Planning Inspectorate published updated average appeal timescales on 14 March 2019.

According to the figures, the average for s78 appeals (excluding householder appeals) from valid appeal to decision is 23 weeks (written representations), 43 weeks (informal hearings) and 50 weeks (inquiries).

Whilst this is bad enough, enforcement and lawful development certificate (LDC) appeals fair even worse where the average times are 40 weeks (written representations), 58 weeks (informal hearings) and 48 weeks (inquiries).

However, as bad as these figures are they do not provide the full picture; for that you have to go to the average timescales breakdown by stage.

s78 Appeals (excluding householder)

Valid – StartStart – EventEvent – Decision
Written reps
9 weeks12 weeks5 weeks
22 weeks15 weeks4 weeks
Inquiries2 weeks37 weeks17 weeks

Enforcement / LDC Appeals

Valid – StartStart – EventEvent – Decision
Written reps25 weeks16 weeks4 weeks
Hearings31 weeks22 weeks4 weeks
Inquiries37 weeks28 weeks12 weeks

Unacceptable, no matter what side of the coin you are on.

We can only hope that the implementation of the recommendations in the Rosewell Report, and the recent appointment of two new Directors, will go some way to alleviate the problems, but absent additional resources at the Planning Inspectorate we fear it will be scratching at the surface.

Special Circumstances Unproven For Green Belt Granny Annexe

Plans for a detached granny annexe in the grounds of a farmhouse in the Nottingham green belt have been refused on appeal as the appellant failed to explain how extant plans for an annexe within the main house would ‘disrupt his family life’.

The appeal concerned one of a number of large detached farmhouses in the green belt south of Nottingham. The appellant sought permission to build a residential annexe, detached from the main house, to provide care and accommodation for an elderly and disabled relative who needed 24-hour care.

The Inspector considered that the scheme would introduce buildings where there are none, intrinsically harming the openness of the green belt. Although he noted that the site was relatively well screened this would not completely remove its visual impact, and the scheme would amount to inappropriate green belt development.

The appellant argued that his relative’s care requirements amounted to the “very special circumstances” needed to permit inappropriate development in the green belt. However, the LPA had previously granted permission to convert part of the main farmhouse into a residential annexe – a permission that remained extant. Despite the appellant arguing that this would be “compromising and disruptive to family life”, the Inspector was not persuaded. The LPA considered the extant permission could be carried out in such a way as to provide privacy and independence and the appellant did not address these submissions, nor did he demonstrate why his relative had to live in close proximity to be cared for, what care was currently provided, why this was unsatisfactory or why it could not continue.

In the planning balance, the Inspector noted that personal circumstances rarely outweigh planning matters because the effects of development can remain long after personal circumstances no longer apply. He also noted the importance of protecting the openness of the green belt. Drawing these factors together, he dismissed the appeal.

“Local Needs” Occupancy Condition Upheld With Disastrous Consequences For Purchaser

The Secretary of State has upheld a planning condition restricting the occupation of a new-build home upheld, requiring the new owners to rent nearby for three years before they can live in the property they purchased.

The appellants purchased a partially completed new-build home in Broughton, North Yorkshire. The home was approved by Ryedale District Council subject to various planning conditions including a “local needs occupancy” one.

The appellants argued that they had bought the home “in good faith” on the understanding that they complied with the second requirement of the local needs occupancy condition, which stated that “people who do not live in the parish but have a long-standing connection to the local community, including a previous residence of over three years” will meet the requirement. 

The appellants argued that they meet the requirement because they had lived in the wider Ryedale district for about 10 years.

The Inspector concluded that term ‘local community’ suggested a more limited geographical meaning than the whole district, “i.e. within and near to Broughton”. This reading of the second requirement of the policy was, in his opinion, corroborated by the fourth requirement which referred explicitly to the district, suggesting that if “district” was meant in the second paragraph, it would have been written there instead of “local community”.

The Inspector acknowledged that if he upheld the condition, the appellants would need to rent a property in the area for three years in order to meet the policy requirement and occupy the home they have purchased. Although he sympathised with the financial costs of this predicament, he ruled that “such personal circumstances cannot outweigh conflict with planning policy”. Concluding that the removal of the condition was not justified, he dismissed the appeal.

Planning Inspector Castigates Council Over Application for Costs

A Planning Inspector has roundly criticised Bath and North East Somerset Council for applying for costs in connection with an enforcement notice appeal in Bath.

The Council’s application, in totality, was expressed as follows:

The LPA considers that the appellant has acted unreasonably in submitting this appeal and as such submits an application award for costs to the Planning Inspectorate in accordance with the guidance set out at paras 027-034 of the National Planning Practice Guidance [sic]

In his decision letter, the Inspector noted:

In fifteen years as a Planning Inspector this is the most pathetic application for costs I have ever had the misfortune to have to adjudicate on …

It is clear that the Council has failed to heed the advice that it has referred to. It has not offered any reason why the mere act of submitting this appeal might be said to constitute unreasonably behaviour. In the context of a statutory right of appeal it would be quite extraordinary for me to make an award of costs against an Appellant merely because they had exercised their right of appeal against such a notice. In the particular circumstances of this case, in the complete absence of any attempt to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour, having regard to the fact that the pertinent advice is in fact in paragraphs 051-054 to which I have not even been referred, this application must fail.

The Inspector went on to consider whether he should make an award of costs against the Council, even though no application had been made by the Appellant, because the Council failed to attend or be represented at the site visit; introduced new policies what were not quoted on the face of the notice; assessed the development against the wrong paragraph of the NPPF. Luckily for the Council, the Inspector exercised his discretion not to initiate an application for costs in this case.