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Civic Voice – A Community Right to Appeal

The latest Edition of The Civic Voice writes:

Just over a year into the coalition Government much fanfare greeted the 2011 Localism Act. Announced as part of the “Government’s revolution to hand power back to local communities”, the thrust of Localism was that communities should be able to be active participants in planning decisions and be given powers to decide what happens in their area.

However, what happened at local level didn’t really match up to the promise of the Act. Instead, numerous planning reforms left local communities feeling dis-empowered, with decisions being taken out of their hands.

In particular, the five year housing land supply policy in the NPPF, provides a loophole for developers if a council cannot meet housing targets, has caused local authorities to allow planning applications, fearful of the cost of losing a subsequent appeal.

Last year, CPRE’s report 'Targeting the Countryside' looked at planning appeals where housing land supply was discussed and found that 27,000 houses were given permission at this type of appeal alone over two years.

Judicial review remains the only means of challenging a poor planning decision despite this trend, but the need for legal support and the risk of incurring substantial costs puts this option out of reach for the vast majority of community groups. Nor can judicial reviews be concerned with the planning policy merits of a case; only whether a decision has been made unlawfully.

Further frustration is caused by the fact that developers have the right of appeal against a local refusal of planning permission on grounds of planning merits. Without the reassurance that decisions granted contrary to a neighbourhood plan can be challenged, there is little incentive for a community to go through the effort required to produce one. That is why Civic Voice are calling on the new Government to show that it is serious about giving power to communities by backing up local and neighbourhood plans with a right of appeal.

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