A new powerful alliance of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Civic Voice has called on all political parties to make a firm manifesto commitment to introduce a community right of appeal into the planning system.
The alliance believes that all political parties should support local ambitions by introducing a limited community right of appeal in areas where a development is non-compliant with a neighbourhood plan or local plan. Currently parish councils and other community groups have the power to produce neighbourhood plans, but no scope to stop developers overriding this by putting in speculative planning applications for approval by the district council. Budget cuts within local authorities mean that they are under increasing pressure to allow large developments, even when these are not in line with the community's aspirations for the future of its area.
The call was made on 14 March 2014 at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference where the three organisations have joined together with Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood aMP to hold a debate on the benefits of such a right.
Martin Horwood said: ''the introduction of a Community Right of Appeal could be triggered when a high threshold of community opposition was reached. Grounds for appeal could include insufficient infrastructure, non-compliance with government guidance and non-compliance with a local neighbourhood plan. We can all think of examples across Cheltenham when this right could have been used and there must be thousands across the Country.'
CPRE chief executive, Shaun Spiers said: "The planning system needs to be rebalanced to give communities the right to stand up to bullying developers and appeal against planning decisions which ignore local or neighbourhood plans. The grounds on which developers can appeal should be restricted and a limited community right of appeal introduced. The vast majority of planning applications would be unaffected by such measures, but they would provide important safeguards to ensure communities can resist unsustainable development proposals."
Freddie Gick, chair of Civic Voice said: "At present, the only recourse for the public against poor planning decisions is judicial review. A right of appeal would give local people a real opportunity to have a say and would rebalance the planning system and help deliver true localism."
NALC chairman, Cllr Ken Browse said: "The voice of local people through the local (town and parish) councils should always be at the heart of planning. To some extent this is being achieved through the statutory neighbourhood plan. But communities via local councils feel that their planning demands are being ignored and there is still the potential for developers to try and ride roughshod against the neighbourhood plan. So a 'right of appeal' would stop this planning injustice."
The three organisations have published their own individual manifestos and are each calling for a community right of appeal within them.