The non-housing development types most likely to succeed at appeal

We explore which types of development have most frequently been allowed at appeal in the past three years. PLUS the most frequent, and most successful, appellants for non-housing schemes.

The Planning Inspectorate's headquarters in Bristol
The Planning Inspectorate's headquarters in Bristol

Energy proposals are more likely on average to be allowed at planning appeals than many other land uses, according to Planning research. Meanwhile, the success rate for telecommunications appeals is lower than for any other development type studied.

But while sectors such as advertisements and telecommunications have comparatively low success rates, they generate comparatively high numbers of appeals, the research shows. Mobile phone operators and advertisement firms are among the most frequent users of the appeal system.

Planning examined data provided by our sister service COMPASS Online on appeals in the following sectors: advertisements, telecommunications, retail, offices, hotels and aparthotels, care homes and minerals and tipping. For most of the sectors, we looked at all appeals determined between April 2017 and March 2020. For the telecommunications appeals, we included only the 2018-2020 period, because before then COMPASS had different criteria for selecting which telecoms decisions to cover. From 2018, COMPASS reduced its coverage of appeals related to phone kiosks, so that only cases considered commercially important or legally interesting were included, but maintained its comprehensive coverage of all other appeals related to telecoms equipment and installations.

The figures reveal that the category with the highest annual average of appeals determined during the period was advertisements, with on average 540 cases concluded per annum between 2017-20. This was followed by retail with 152 and then telecommunications with 121 – although the figure for the latter does not include all phone kiosks appeals. Typically, the year-on-year figures showed a fall in appeals determined between 2017-18 and 2018-19, but then a significant rise in 2019-20. The rise in the last year coincides with efforts by the Planning Inspectorate to cut its backlog of appeals.

Looking at overall trends, the predominance of advertisement appeals reflects the lucrative nature of the industry, according to practitioners. "Outdoor advertising firms often go as far as they can," says Mike Kiely, chairman of the Planning Officers Society, which represents public sector planners. "I suspect they push it that much more than other developers."

Similarly, telecommunications installations are a busy appeals category and this partly reflects the rolling out of communications hubs – street pods which incorporate Wi-Fi, phone services and other communications facilities – as replacements for old phone kiosks, as well as the ongoing installation of new masts and other infrastructure.

The energy sector has the highest proportion of appeals allowed, at 48 per cent during the period. This category includes wind turbines, solar farms, biomass schemes and electricity and gas power generating installations. Kiely argues that the potential of energy schemes to deliver environmental and sustainability benefits can help make the case for many energy facilities, even where such schemes have challenging site issues.

Most appeals in the retail category – the second busiest – incorporated proposals for A2 uses or flats, indicating that many of these appeals related to small-scale mixed-use schemes which incorporate retail. The number of appeals for new food stores hinging on traditional retail planning issues, by contrast, is a relatively small portion of the overall retail appeal numbers, with the COMPASS figures counting just 19 such appeals for proposals involving foodstores of more than 2,500 square metres in floorspace.

This finding reflects the decline of traditional shopping and old-style battles involving out-of-centre shopping schemes, according to practitioners. Dr Steven Norris, national head of planning at consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton, said the nature of retail appeals had changed over the past ten years. "The operators most likely to be involved in appeals are the discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, with Tesco and Sainsbury's less so because they are just not promoting those big new stores," he says.

Peter Wilks, senior director at consultancy Lichfields, says many retail appeals instead involve additional facilities at shopping units or changes of use. Many of these will hinge on site-specific issues such as character and appearance impacts.

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