Revealed: The top Local Planning Authorities who refuse new housing developments

Despite an ongoing housing crisis, 15 Local Planning Authorities refused at least 1 in 2 planning submissions for residential developments last year.

Related topics:  Construction,  Property,  Planning,  Development
Property | Reporter
7th May 2024
Planning 652
"Councils, where no one party is in control, can mean planning applications can take a more political lens when considered for approval, ultimately finding consent harder to achieve"
- Andrew Lloyd - Search Acumen

The top 15 Local Planning Authorities in the UK for refusing new major housing development has been revealed. Property data provider, Search Acumen, has found that the majority of councils refusing at least 1 in 2 submissions for major new housing in 2023 are disproportionately in London, the South East, and East of England.

Looking at planning permissions refused for all major residential developments of more than 10 units in 2023, in which at least 10 applications were submitted last year, Mole Valley was the top UK Local Planning Authority that refused the most decisions at 77%.

The Surrey district, run by the Liberal Democrats, is adjoined to the Surrey Hills - a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty - with an average house price of £565,000.

12 of the top 15 Local Planning Authorities who refused at least 50% of major housing developments were in London, the South East, or the East of England, meaning housebuilders here have the lowest chance of obtaining a successful planning application in the country. The analysis also points to councils where no one party has a majority to have an increased likelihood (60%) of major new housing developments being refused, as political instability stifles development despite the national housing crisis.

Population projections released this year by the Office for National Statistics show the UK growing by 6.6 million people from 2021 to 2036, suggesting that we will need to build at least 5.7 million homes in England over 15 years to fill the deficit. Meeting that figure means building on average 382,000 homes per annum, 60% higher than the current rate of 240,000 (2022-23).

Andrew Lloyd, Director of Search Acumen, comments: “Where the housing pressure is the greatest is where opposition to new housing is the highest. This research shows that overwhelmingly the wealthier parts of the country, in particular the commuter belts in the South East, is where the greatest amount of opposition comes from to new housing. With more land being used for development, voters and politicians alike are becoming more protective of land due to its scarcity.”

He continues: “Councils, where no one party is in control, can mean planning applications can take a more political lens when considered for approval, ultimately finding consent harder to achieve.

"Local elections on May 2nd for these areas up and down the UK will be key to removing political stalemates through majority wins, creating a better chance for local authorities to be able to commit to new housing projects and the associated town investment that often goes hand in hand.”

This comes as nearly one in 10 councils in England have warned they will go bankrupt in the next 12 months as authorities are having to plan widespread service cuts, above-inflation council tax rises and across-the-board increases to resident charges, a survey has revealed, making the local elections yesterday even more critical to progress.

For larger developers, the places where they are most likely to be greeted with YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard) and get planning permission granted reside broadly in the Midlands and the North. 12 out of 15 Local Planning Authorities who had a 100% approval rate in 2023 of more than 10 major developments were outside of London and the South East.

Out of the 15 councils with a 100% record for large development planning approvals, the majority (60%) were Labour run.

Andrew concludes: “YIMBY areas are places that either want or need the investment, marking them as high growth areas for the future.

“If we take Bexley, for example, this area has been opened up thanks to Elizabeth Line, actively looking for more investment and being pro-development as a result. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule, Brent is also an area for London that has had a housing boom. Located close to Wembley it has seen a plethora of investment pour in with a high need for more affordable housing, making planning approvals more likely.”

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