Which councils refuse the most planning applications?

Around 20,000 householder planning applications are refused permission each year. But some councils refuse a lot more planning applications that others. Which councils are the worst offenders?

The London Borough of Redbridge refused planning planning for a whopping 47% of all applications it decided in the fourth quarter (October to December) of 2019. Watford Borough Council, also in the south-east, came in second, refusing permission in 40% of cases.

In these boroughs, it would seem that householders are getting a raw deal and should consider appealing any refusal. When an appeal is submitted, the decision is taken out of the hands of the council and made again by an independent inspector appointed by the government.

The worst performers are shown below (source: ONS):

  1. Redbridge - 47% of planning applications refused

  2. Watford - 40%

  3. Barking & Dagenham - 38%

  4. Maldon - 35%

  5. Gravesham - 33%

  6. Hillingdon - 33%

  7. Tandridge - 32%

  8. Enfield - 32%

  9. Harrow - 31%

  10. Hounslow - 30%

  11. Southend-on-Sea - 30%

  12. Rochford - 27%

  13. Uttlesford - 27%

  14. Barnet - 27%

  15. Greenwich - 27%

  16. Newham - 27%

  17. Harlow - 26%

  18. East Hertfordshire - 25%

  19. Brent - 25%

  20. Islington - 25%

It is noticeable that the councils refusing most applications are disproportionately in London and the south-east of England. The other thing I notice is that a number of these councils appear again and again in the enquiries we receive from customers here at

Redbridge is a busy council for us - we appeal a lot of refusals for single-storey rear extensions, for example. We have had several appeals this year in Watford, including one for a two-storey side extension that we thought was one of the most unfair decisions we had ever seen. Hillingdon also has an issue with two-storey side extensions and in January 2020 adopted a new Local Plan with strong, specific policies relating to householder extensions.

Our planning consultants have direct experience of submitting appeals in all but a handful of the councils in the list above. If you have been refused permission and would like to appeal, consider our low-case, fixed fee appeal service. If you would like independent advice on whether the council's refusal was fair, consider our case review service. Remember, a refusal of planning permission need not be the end!

PS: the government planning statistics are available on the ONS website here:


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