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Why appeal decisions have shot up

A recent spike in appeal decisions has been attributed by the Planning Inspectorate to recruitment of more staff, but observers suggest it could also reflect a rise in the number of cases submitted.

Earlier this month, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) released figures showing a large leap in the second quarter of 2019 in the number of planning appeals it decided. The 3,437 decisions made between April and June was the highest number recorded of any quarter since the start of 2010/11, the earliest date for which PINS publishes historical quarterly figures. It also marked a rise of 32 per cent from the 2,587 decided the previous quarter. 

A PINS spokesman linked the increase in decisions to "recruiting more inspectors and improving our processes". It announced in July that it had added 80 new inspectors and appeals planning officers to speed up determinations. It has also introduced new appeal handling methods, following recommendations in the governmentcommissioned Rosewell review, which aimed to cut inquiry timescales and reported in February.

However Jamie Sullivan, an associate at planning consultancy Iceni, played down the impact of the Rosewell review changes on the rise in appeal decisions. He said: "Mostly, the review related to public inquiries and these are a small proportion of the total number of appeals." 

In fact, the increase in decisions follows a gradual rise in the number of planning appeals lodged over recent years (see chart below). PINS figures show that submissions rose sharply in 2017, climbing above 3,000 per quarter for the first time ever in April to June 2017. They reached a record peak of 3,685 in the fourth quarter of that year - a spike that appears to have been followed in decisions 18 months later. 

Sullivan said: "The increase in appeals lodged is a significant part of the reason why we have seen a spike in decisions, but I think that the administration of the appeal process and the number of inspectors being employed is another part of the story." 

Mary Cook, partner at planning law firm Town Legal, attributed the rise in appeals lodged to government tweaks to the planning system. She said: "After the National Planning Policy Framework was published in 2012, more applicants started chasing appeals, particularly in the area of housing. The extension of permitted development rights has also led to an increase in prior notification appeals." 

Cook pointed to the large number of appeals lodged relating to prior approval refusals for telephone kiosks as one reason for the apparent increase. Last year, PINS chief executive Sarah Richards blamed such unexpected submissions as a factor behind increasing delays in processing appeals.

Source: Planning Recourse 

23 September 2019