Why appeal success rates differ between appellants of the same type

Some firms have a much better record at appeal than others of the same type, Planning’s research shows.

New homes: appeal success rates vary
New homes: appeal success rates vary

Planning’s analysis of Compass appeals data finds that, for housebuilders, the success rate at appeal on schemes of five or more homes since 2017 ranged from 78 per cent for Taylor Wimpey to below 20 per cent for some smaller firms. For strategic land companies, which promote land through the planning system to achieve allocations and permissions, the rate ranges from 62.5 per cent for Hollins Strategic Land and 57 per cent for Hallam Land Management to less than half that for some other firms.

For Taylor Wimpey, an analysis of the firm’s appeals shows that, of the firm’s seven successful appeals during the period, most were cases in which the local planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

Bellway’s 75 per cent appeals success rate in the table is the second highest, with Persimmon and Bloor Homes close behind. Bloor Homes’ senior planning and development director Spencer Claye says the firm’s site selection choices are “paramount”, with a focus on “good quality strategic land opportunities”. If the firm has to appeal, he says, “we ensure that we properly resource our activities so that our proposals stand up to the scrutiny of an inspector”.

Another volume housebuilder with a good record of appeals success during the period was Barratt Developments, with a 56 per cent success rate. Its group land and planning director Philip Barnes says the firm always takes advice on appeal prospects even before it has secured control of the site and submitted an application. “It is unlikely we will invest if an appeal is likely,” he says. “And even less so if an appeal is unlikely to be successful.”

Barnes adds that Barratt tends to appeal by public inquiry if it can. “We feel this is the best way to ensure we are able to both clearly present our case and also test the council’s case,” he says.
Whilst many of the large volume housebuilders have high success rates, some smaller firms are less successful. Barnes says that, due to Barratt’s average site size at over 150 homes, it is key for the firm to give themselves the best possible prospects of success.

“Maybe smaller firms have smaller sites, so therefore it is more tempting to use the written representations route, which is cheaper but where success rates are lower,” he says.

Of the land promoters, two firms are front-runners in the appeal success rates table - Hollins Strategic Land and Hallam Land Management. Hollins won five of its eight appeals during the period, and in most of these, the firm was able to overcome concerns over coalescence or development in settlement gaps.

The firm’s managing director, Mark Cooper, says the firm’s approach to site identification is “founded in a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the current planning policy for each site”. “The sites that we have been forced to appeal are supported by a comprehensive evidence base,” he says.

Other land promotion firms have lower success rates, with Gladman winning 40 per cent of its appeals during the period and other land promotion firms having rates of below 30 per cent.

Only two of the eight Catesby Estates appeals determined in 2017-20 were allowed. Planning director David Morris points out that one of the firm’s dismissals - the proposal for 90 homes on farmland in Harrold, Bedfordshire - has since been quashed. He adds that the firm’s record over the long term is better, with a run of dismissals from 2017 having followed a successful period at appeals for the firm prior to that.

Christopher Young QC of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, says two key factors which help the chances of success are a willingness to invest in evidence and a willingness to accept advice.

“The best experts are not just those who present well as witnesses, but also give the clients brutally honest advice, which is not always what they want to hear,” he says. “But for a client willing to invite and take that advice, it pays handsome dividends in the end.”

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