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Planning loophole causing glut of house building in the countryside

8 September 2014

Greefield sites are being targeted for more housing Greefield sites are being targeted for more housing © Shutterstock

A new research paper from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) published today shows that steep targets for the amount of land councils must allocate for housing are opening the door to major housing developments in the countryside.

The paper, Targeting the countryside, studies the appeal decisions on applications for major housing developments on greenfield land between March 2012 and May 2014. It finds that planning inspectors overturned the decisions of local councils in 72 per cent of cases where there was no defined land supply. 27,000 houses were granted planning permission in this way – which is around 8.5 per cent of all houses planned across the country in that period [1].

Introduced in March 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local councils to demonstrate a five year land supply for housing in an attempt to boost house building. Councils without a local plan are powerless to decide where developments should go in their area, but only 17.6 per cent of councils have had plans approved by Government. This is often due to the onerous criteria in constructing viable plans [2].

Furthermore, those who have not managed to meet their targets face the punishment of finding an extra 20 per cent of land as a ‘buffer’ to ensure ‘choice and competition’.

Targeting the countryside is based on research which looked at 309 planning appeal decisions from every region of England between March 2012 and May 2014 where local councils had rejected applications for developments of 10 or more houses on greenfield land [3]. The research also shows that one in six local refusals was overturned by a planning inspector even when a council was meeting its targets.

John Rowley, planning officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England who coordinated the report, comments:
“These figures show that current policy is encouraging unnecessary house building in the countryside against the wishes of local people. We need to see a more transparent and less punitive system which does not allow unrealistic housing targets to override local concerns.

“The Government should remove the automatic presumption for development where there is no five year land supply. It should also immediately stop demanding an extra 20 per cent housing requirement from councils already struggling to meet targets.

“We support the Government’s desire to simplify planning and meet the urgent need for new homes. Yet councils must be provided with detailed guidance on housing targets, and brownfield land must be prioritised so that unnecessary greenfield development is not so blatantly and regularly allowed through the back door.”


Notes to Editors
[1] Targeting the countryside: the impact of housing land supply requirements on green spaces and local democracy is available here. The full research report, on which Targeting the Countryside is based, is available here.
[2] These criteria include finding the required land to meet demanding short-term housing targets, discarding recent house building rates, and compensating for ‘under delivery’ of housing in the past even if those previous targets had been agreed with and approved by Government.
[3] The regional breakdown of appeals examined is as follows:

East Midlands 54
East of England 23
National Parks 1
North East 9
North West 52
South East 60
South West 59
West Midlands 33
Yorkshire 18
Total 309

If you would like to talk to John Rowley about the report’s findings in more detail then please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.


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