Exclusive - Sharp increase in housing appeals approved by secretary of state

The number of major housing appeals personally approved by communities secretary Eric Pickles has increased sharply since last spring, according to figures compiled by Planning.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles
Communities secretary Eric Pickles

An analysis of secretary of state decisions in 2013 by Planning
reveals that Pickles approved 21 recovered appeal schemes with a substantial housing element between April and December 2013.

The figure is almost as high as the number of recovered appeal housing schemes approved by the secretary of state in the whole of the previous three-year period, the analysis reveals.

In a written answer issued before Christmas, planning minister Nick Boles said that the only 26 recovered appeals for housing had been allowed by the secretary of state in the three years between April 2010 and March 2013.

A recovered appeal decision is one in which, rather than an inspector making a decision, an inspector appointed by Pickles will write a report with a recommendation on how the appeal should be determined. This is then passed to the secretary of state to make a decision.

Latest figures from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) suggest that a greater degree of intervention by the secretary of state is behind the rise, rather than it being a consequence of an upsurge in PINS' overall casework.

According to PINS data, the number of appeal decisions relating to dwellings and major dwellings between April and September 2013 - the period in which Pickles' housing approvals substatially increased - did not differ greatly from the norm.

Caroline McDade, a director at property firm Deloitte Real Estate, said that the figures suggest that Pickles is taking a "more interventionist role" ahead of next year's general election, "so that voters can see that the government is attempting to support housing growth".

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