The reason is quite simple. 40% of rejections are reversed on appeal, a higher success rate than amended applications. And, of course, appealing is more cost-efficient than preparing and submitting an amended application.
The survey concluded that the high success rate of appeals is almost certainly caused by an absence in some areas of up-to-date local plans. If authorities do not have an up-to-date local plan and are unable to demonstrate that at least five years’ worth of land has been allocated for local housing, then development on sites that could or should have been allocated to this need are very likely to succeed on appeal if initially rejected.
The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 requires planning authorities to set out policies addressing strategic land use priorities as well as identifying housing sites which will deliver at least a five-year housing supply. If these plans have not been made by April 2018, then the secretary of state has the power to intervene and take the preparation of local plans out of the hands of a single authority or, as a last resort, start this work on behalf of the council.
From the Planning Department viewpoint, appeals are evidence of a system that requires immediate change. Better consultation and up-to-date plans would ensure such applications get through first time, without the extra effort and delay.
Other interesting facts came to light in the survey. Three-quarters of the builders surveyed buy more land with pre-existing planning permission than they did 10 years ago. Almost four-fifths place speeding up planning decisions at the top of a wish list for regional devolution, urging mayors to unlock stalled sites in their areas.