London and the South East refused the highest proportion of developer planning applications in 2023, despite housing crisis

3rd May 2024

  • 15 Local Planning Authorities refused at least 1 in 2 planning submissions for residential developments last year; 80% of which were based in either in London, the South East, or East of England
  • Mole Valley in Surrey had the highest amount of refusals for major new housing developments out of any Local Planning Authority in the UK, with 77% of decisions refused.  
  • There are 15 Local Authorities who take the top spot for the most YIMBY areas in the UK, approving 100% of all major development applications
  • 60% of YIMBY councils are run by a Labour majority council. These include, Plymouth, Nottingham and Bexley
  • Councils with no overall control were 60% more likely to refuse new major housing planning applications
  • Nearly one in 10 councils in England have warned they will go bankrupt in the next 12 months, with local elections on May 2nd

The top 15 Local Planning Authorities in the UK for refusing new major housing development has been revealed. Leading 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 who 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[1].

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)[2].

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.”

[1] ONS March 2024 data:

[2] Centre of Policy Studies 2024 and Office of National Statistics:

[Table 1: The top UK locations where at least 50% of all major housing developments in 2023, where 10 or more applications where submitted, were refused]

*Blue: Conservative; Red: Labour; Yellow: Liberal Democrat; Grey: No overall majority

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 services cuts, above-inflation council tax rises and across-the-board increases to resident charges, a survey has revealed[1], making the upcoming local elections 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.

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

[Table 2: The top locations for YIMBY’s in the UK, approving 100% of all major housing developments in 2023, where 10 or more applications where submitted]

*Blue: Conservative; Red: Labour; Yellow: Liberal Democrats; Grey: No overall majority

[1] The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) annual poll of local authority leaders 2024:

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