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Councils waste millions fighting planning appeals - claim

Seventeen London boroughs wasted over £2m in the last five years fighting rejected planning applications that were subsequently approved on appeal, says Coverdale Barclay. 

The communications consultancy found that local authorities across the capital spent at least £2,317,135 in legal fees and costs awarded to appellants of major planning applications between 2018 and 2023. 

However, the actual cost could be significantly higher, after a number of boroughs admitted to not recording total costs incurred fighting planning applications. Others failed to provide responses in an accessible format. 


The planning authority which spent the highest amount, out of the boroughs that responded to the Freedom of Information request, was Ealing. The west London borough spent £506,248 in legal costs between 2018 and December 2023. 

The findings come after Housing Secretary Michael Gove published changes to the National Planning Policy Framework at the end of 2023, including scrapping some penalties for councils that fail to meet new housing targets. 

Campaigners argue the proposals will further empower NIMBY authorities and constituents to block much-needed new housing, resulting in a far higher volume of appeals to the Planning Inspectorate – and a greater cost to the taxpayer.  

Boroughs including the City of London, Bexley, Hackney, Lewisham, Redbridge and Wandsworth either over-turned appeals, or paid nothing in legal costs and awards, over the same period. 

Several boroughs including Croydon, Haringey, Richmond Upon Thames and Southwark, all said they either do not record legal costs and awards to appellants, or did not provide data in an accessible format. 

Ros Barclay, Director at Coverdale Barclay, says: “Under-staffed planning departments mean decisions are taking far too long to progress and, in some cases, culminating in decisions that incur an extra cost to the public purse.  

“These figures demonstrate the importance of effective political and public consultation at every stage of the planning application process, ensuring decisions about plans for much-needed new homes are made efficiently and, ultimately, correctly.” 

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  • George Dawes

    Well that is a surprise

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    • A S
    • 15 May 2024 07:57 AM

    Council wasting money? Surely this must be a misprint? Just not possible!

  • John  Adams

    Frankly when you see some of the projects that are submitted and go to appeal with The Planning Inspectorate and then approved, I am with the Councils. I know of one application at the moment that will completely encompass the rear yard of a fast food joint and in the process back right up to residential properties - and this is likely to be approved despite the council previously imposing restrictions for previous breaches of the last application resulting in no proper extraction of cooking fumes and blocking a fire escape... Yet this was signed off on Appeal

  • George Dawes

    This whole new class e has really caused chaos , in the old days getting permission for a restaurant was rightly difficult now they’re popping up all over the place and causing noise , smells and disturbance not to mention vermin problems

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    In the interests of brevity and accuracy the whole headline could be reduced to: COUNCILS WASTE MONEY. 😠

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    Councils wasting money? Why is this even news to anyone?

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    This article uses figures only on "major" planning applications (for residential "major" is defined as 10 dwellings or more). So it doesn't count smaller applications.
    Also, it measures awards of costs to successful applicants at appeal; where costs are awarded (where the planning authority has been unreasonable in refusing an application, or in trying to defend some stupid grounds of its refusal) - which is far from all successful cases.

    Claimable costs will arise where an applicant has e.g. had to employ consultants or lawyers to fight the appeal.

    SO, if you are appealing a refusal where you are doing all the work yourself no claimable costs will arise, even if the planning authority has acted unreasonably.

    For the record, there have been a few cases where a council successfully claimed costs due to unreasonable actions of applicants; but very few.

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    And all the councils are broke- have no money. Well- Here’s one reason why.


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