Austin Macauley 09 September 2014

Land supply loophole leaves councils 'powerless' to stop greenfield development

The countryside is being left vulnerable to major housing development as a result of ‘unrealistic’ targets imposed on local authorities, a report has warned.

Some 27,000 homes earmarked for greenfield sites were granted planning permission between March 2012 and May 2014 after inspectors overturned council decisions.

A study by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found the requirement for councils to have a five-year land supply for housing had created a ‘planning loophole’.

‘Councils without a local plan are powerless to decide where developments should go in their area, but only 17.6% of councils have had plans approved by Government,’ said the report. ‘This is often due to the onerous criteria in constructing viable plans.’

It found planning inspectors overturned council decisions in 72% of cases where there was no defined land supply.

‘These figures show that current policy is encouraging unnecessary house building in the countryside against the wishes of local people,’ said John Rowley, CPRE planning officer and report co-ordinator.

‘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% 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.’

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