MPs to consider bill to limit appeals on applications inconsistent with neighbourhood plans

A bill has been introduced to the House of Commons that would ban the right to appeal against refusals of applications that are inconsistent with both a neighbourhood and a local plan, if the local authority has an adequate housing land supply.

Parliament: new bill intended to restrict planning appeals in areas with made neighbourhood plans
Parliament: new bill intended to restrict planning appeals in areas with made neighbourhood plans

The Planning (Appeals) Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons last week. The private members’ bill has been introduced by Conservative MP John Howell.

Howell was the author of the Conservatives’ Open Source Planning paper back in 2010 which laid the groundwork for the introduction of the neighbourhood planning system.

He was also instrumental in the development of the first National Planning Policy Framework, which was published in 2012

Speaking at the first reading of the bill last week, Howell said that the bill would "limit the grounds of appeal against decisions on planning applications consistent with a neighbourhood development plan or local plan".

The MP for Henley said that "where there is a robust five-year housing land supply in place", or a three-year housing land supply where appropriate, and both an approved neighbourhood plan and local plan and an application is refused because it is contrary to the neighbourhood plan, the developer "would have no right of appeal".

However, where the local authority makes procedural errors in its decision, the developer would be allowed to judicially review the decision. It would also be allowed to appeal as normal if there was an approved neighbourhood and local plan but the council did not have a five- or three-year housing land supply, he added.

Howell went on to say: "I am introducing this Bill to try to provide reassurance to communities who spend considerable amounts of time and money producing a neighbourhood plan that their work is valued, that it plays an important part in the planning system and the determination of planning applications, and that, together with the local plan produced by the district or borough council, it is a fundamental document", he said.

Howell said that in a village called Sonning Common, in his Henley constituency, the local community and district council were reported to have spent £90,000 defending the village’s new neighbourhood plan against an appeal.

The MP said the subject of the appeal "was an application for 95 dwellings on a site located in the neighbourhood plan for just 26".

He said: "Why the application was able to be taken to appeal is part of the reason for the Bill. The application was inconsistent with the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan and there were no mitigating circumstances.

"The question we have to ask is: why was the existence of the neighbourhood plan not sufficient?"

The MP said he was "fully aware of one developer who has devoted considerable resources to undermining neighbourhood plans and regularly submits objections to local planning authorities".

Howell said that the bill would help "return real democracy to the towns and villages of this country"; could "make the allocation of land for more houses more attractive to towns and villages, because they will be protected from rapacious interests"; and "encourage communities to prepare plans, including local district and borough councils, and to support neighbourhood plans".

The next stage for the bill, its second reading, is scheduled to take place on Friday 25 January 2019.

The bill was supported by other MPs, including Sir Oliver Letwin, the author of the government-commission report into build-out rates.

Howell voiced support for the idea of such restrictions being placed on appeals at the Conservative confierence in 2015. 

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