The authorities in danger of special measures designation because of poor appeal records

Four local planning authorities are over the 'special measures' threshold for the proportion of decisions overturned at appeal during the latest government assessment period, according to new statistics from the housing ministry.

Eastbourne: Nearly 14 per cent of major district-level decisions overturned in two years. Image: Flickr / Berit Watkin
Eastbourne: Nearly 14 per cent of major district-level decisions overturned in two years. Image: Flickr / Berit Watkin

Under the ‘special measures’ regime, local planning authorities can be designated as poorly-performing if they fail to meet criteria for either speed or quality of decision-making, allowing developers to submit applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate.

Any authority that has more than ten per cent of either major or non-major applications overturned at appeal over a two-year period is at risk of designation.

The latest planning statistics, published earlier this month by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), reveal provisional data on English authorities' performance in terms of quality of decison-making over the two years from April 2017 to March 2019.

This is the period over which councils are due to be assessed before the 2020 special measures designations are announced.

Dartmoor National Park, Eastbourne Borough Council, Bromsgrove District Council, and Tandridge District Council are all above the threshold for designation in relation to major district-level decisions (see table below).

However, Dartmoor National Park only dealt with five major district-level cases in the assessment period of which one decision was overturned.

Another national park authority has previously criticised the percentage-based designation criteria for penalising authorities that receive small numbers of applications.

No planning authorities exceeded the ten per cent threshold in relation to either major county matters decisions, which covers developments like oil, gas and minerals and waste, or non-major decisions.

The number of authorities above the designation threshold for major district-level decisions has fallen by one since performance figures for the two-year period up to September 2018 were published earlier this year.

The 25 local planning authorities with the highest percentage of major district-level decisions overturned at appeal in the two years to March 2019

Eight authorities saw at least one major county-level decision overturned at appeal during the two year assessment period (see table below).

Somerset Council saw the highest percentage of major county-level decisions overturned but still remains well below the designation threshold at 3.3 per cent.

The eight local planning authorities with the highest percentage of major county matters decisions overturned at appeal in the two years to March 2019

No planning authorities came close to exceeding the ten per cent threshold for the percentage of non-major decisions overturned at appeal.

London boroughs accounted for six of the top ten authorities with the highest percentage of non-major decisions overturned - down from eight in the two-year period up to September 2018.

The 25 local planning authorities with the highest percentage of non-major district-level decisions overturned at appeal in the two years to March 2019

However, looking solely at the last quarter of the assessment period, from January to March 2019, 21 authorities exceeded the ten per cent designation threshold for number of major district-level decisions overturned.

During this three-month period, Taunton Deane Council saw two out of seven decisions overturned, equating to 28.6 per cent. Eastbourne Council and Bromsgrove Council both saw one out of four decisions overturned.

Over the quarter, no authorities exceeded the threshold for non-major district-level decisions, while there were no major county matters decisions overturned.

In December 2018, the MHCLG said consideration of designation for quality of decision-making in the first quarter of 2020 would consider the period between April 2017 and March 2019.

No council has been penalised under the special measures initiative since January 2015, despite many falling under the sanction thresholds over the designation periods.

Planning asked the MHCLG if any planning authorities are to be placed in special measures based on the latest performance figures but it had not responded by the time of publication.

Correction: This article was amended on 11 August 2020 to show that four, rather than five, local authorities were over the designation threshold for planning decisions overturned at appeal. Bromley is not among them. The local authority was mistakenly reported to be above the 10 per cent threshold for the number of major district-level decisions overturned at appeal. However, the criteria for designation do not include appeals against planning conditions and, when judged against this measure, Bromley falls below the ten per cent threshold.


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