Skip to content

Planning Speed Read – Planning in Purdah-tory and Appeals Updates

With local elections looming on 2 May this year, applicants for planning permission should expect delays in local planning authorities' decision making during April.

Planning and the Pre-Election Period

The pre-election period – previously known as “purdah” – is a time of heightened sensitivity for Councils and their activities, and many LPAs will reduce activities and decision-making which could be perceived as influencing the outcome of an election.  Decisions made by LPAs to grant or refuse high-profile planning applications  can be subject to judicial review and challenges in the courts on the basis that there was a real possibility of bias or predetermination.

There is no blanket ban on authorities convening committee meetings to determine applications, and indeed Local Government Association guidance expressly anticipates them doing so.  However, some LPAs may choose to only address applications that cannot be deemed to be controversial and are therefore likely to give rise to political debates amongst members, and many LPAs simply choose to not hold any committee meetings during the pre-election period altogether.  Consequently, applicants should expect there to be delays in the run up to the local elections.

The Planning Inspectorate has also announced that it will hold back appeals cases that deal with issues of a electorally sensitive nature, such as:

  • Issues subject to extensive local campaigning or where the decision raises very controversial local issues
  • Major green field housing
  • Renewables
  • Where there is an emerging Neighbourhood Plan.

Stay up to date with:

  • Trending Topics
  • Latest Insights
  • Upcoming Events
  • Company Updates

PINS has also confirmed that they will not be issuing any letters regarding the soundness or legal compliance of local plans until after the local elections (i.e. from 3 May onwards).

Whilst applicants will hopefully have been in communication with case officers about the anticipated timetables for determination of their applications, they should anticipate April 2024 to be “slow” month in terms of planning issues.

PINS Appeals – Timeliness Updates

PINS monthly data for the number of appeals decided in February was published last week.

In February 2024, a total of 883 appeals were decided by written representations taking a mean total of 32 weeks for a decision to be made, 35 appeals decided following a hearing in mean total of 35 weeks, and 20 appeals decided following an inquiry in a mean total of 39 weeks. (see more on this from PINS).

Appeal Method No. of Decisions Time Taken to Determine

(mean avg.)

Written Representations 883 32 weeks
Hearing 35 35 weeks
Inquiry 20 39 weeks

(Source: Planning Inspectorate, 28 March 2024)

Timescales are down on this time last year and is no doubt to be welcomed by appellants. Nevertheless, developers are no doubt already keenly aware of the seemingly irreducible amount of time necessary for PINS to turn appeal cases around, and this will likely only be worse during April as the pre-election period takes hold.

Recovered Appeals – the strange case of Marsh Wall

However, the performance of PINS can be starkly contrasted with that of the Secretary of State, as Russell Harris KC’s recent experience of a recovered appeal bears testament.

The applicant had lodged an appeal with PINS in respect of the development of a 55-storey residential tower block in Tower Hamlets, London. The case was expedited by the Inspector, whose recommendation to grant was issued within 3 months of the close of the inquiry.

However, the Secretary of State recovered matter following the close of the inquiry, and the appeal remained undetermined for a further 11 months.  In the end, the SOS concurred with the Inspector’s original decision to grant the appeal.  However, per Russell’s recent LinkedIn post on the case, it seems the decision arrived too late, as by that time it was too late to implement the scheme, meaning that a much smaller development (with seemingly lesser planning benefits) had to be pursued instead.

Russell’s experience demonstrates the very tangible impact of unanticipated delays in determination of appeals for major developments, something that all developers should be live to.

If you would like to know more about this matter, please get in touch with James, or another of our expert Planning Lawyers.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Follow us on LinkedIn

Keep up to date with all the latest updates and insights from our expert team

Take me there

What we're thinking