Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has been told it “can’t afford to lose” any more major applications through the appeals process before the end of the year if it is to perform to the required standard.

The council was presented with reports on the quality of major applications and appeals at a committee meeting on September 27.

Addressing attendees, strategic head of planning Dean Hermitage presented figures covering the years 2017 to 2024, with predictions being made based on existing outcomes in relation to the upcoming year.

As per the Department for Levelling-up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) guidelines, a council is permitted to refuse up to 10 per cent of major applications over the course of a year, including after appeal.

If this percentage is any higher, the authority is at risk of crossing the ‘designation’ threshold and could be placed in special measures.

The report showed that, between April 2021 and March 2023, UDC refused 9.46 per cent of major applications including pending and finalised appeals.

Mr Hermitage said: “We’re performing at the best levels we have been since 2018, but we’re beginning to sail close to the wind as far as the government is concerned.

“If we lose any more (major applications through the appeal process) between now and December, it’s likely we’ll be back above the government designation threshold. Essentially, we can’t afford to lose any of them.”

According to Mr Hermitage’s report, appeals between 2022 and 2023 cost UDC £306,407.36 in legal fees including the awarding of costs, and £169,873.42 was paid to consultants.

These figures exclude the Stansted Airport inquiry. Between 2022 and 2023, six appeals made directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) were approved with conditions.

On September 11, the Secretary of State approved the appeal for a development of up to 1,200 homes between Little Easton and Great Dunmow after an appeal was lodged following UDC’s refusal in 2021.

UDC was previously placed in special measures in 2022 over the quality of its major applications and percentage of refusals.

Designating a council in this way allows developers to bypass their local authority when submitting planning applications and instead apply to the government directly.