Gladman announces it is 'avoiding the appeals system' following failed High Court challenge

Land promoter Gladman has announced it is stepping back from its practice of lodging high numbers of appeals and has claimed that the presumption in favour of sustainable development in national policy is "now substantially weaker" than it was, following a failed High Court bid to overturn two inspectors' decisions that blocked their plans for 260 new homes.

New homes: Gladman says appeal route to secure consents has become more difficult
New homes: Gladman says appeal route to secure consents has become more difficult

Uttlesford District Council and Corby Borough Council rejected the firm's applications for respectively 240 homes and 120 homes in their areas.

Gladman then challenged the decisions of planning inspectors who dismissed its appeals against the two local authorities’ refusals of permission.

Both applications were refused by the councils on the basis that the proposals conflicted with local development plan policies.

Gladman argued that shortfalls in housing land supply at the two authorities meant the National Planning Policy Framework's (NPPF's) tilted balance in favour of sustainable development should be applied.

The 'tilted balance' states that planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole.

Gladman argued that development plan policies should be excluded from the consideration of planning applications when the ‘tilted balance’ was applied. 

But last week, the High Court ruled that where a local authority lacks a five-year housing land supply, grants of permission should not be "automatic", in a judgment that gave primacy to development plan policies. 

Mr Justice Holgate described Gladman’s claim as "misconceived". He said: "Treating development plan policies as relevant considerations under the tilted balance is not incompatible with the objectives of the presumption in favour of sustainable development or the NPPF."

In a statement issued after the High Court judgement, Gladman claimed that fewer than one in five of the 67 major housing appeals where the titled balance was applied in the first nine months of 2019 were successful.

"Perversely, this was less than the overall success rate for major housing appeals," the land promoter said.

"The application of the tilted balance appeared to reduce the chances of the appeal being allowed."

It went on to say that decision-makers have "increasingly emphasised the plan-led system in decisions, taking account of the conflict with the development plan, which led to refusal as a significant harm in the tilted balance".

In addition, all eight appeals determined in September where the titled balance was applied were dismissed, it added.

Victoria Hesson, managing director at Gladman, said the company was concerned that the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development "is now substantially weaker than it was when the framework was first introduced".

"Many applicants, including us here at Gladman, have begun to avoid the appeals system as it is now extremely difficult to assess your chances of success even where the presumption in favour of development is engaged" said Hesson. 

"Until this situation is resolved by government, and clarity is provided, there will be even fewer applicants who will decide to take the significant financial risk of conducting an appeal when the chances of success are so clearly diminished."

Uttlesford District Council and Corby Borough Council have been approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

Analysis conducted by Planning last year revealed that Gladman had submitted more than twice as many planning appeals against refusal of major housing schemes than any other appellant since the NPPF was introduced in 2012.

Exclusive Planning research on the prevalence of unallocated housing schemes that win permission at appeal can be found here. It found that the proportion of appeals being allowed on unallocated greenfield sites has dropped over the past four years. 

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