Campaigners say that payment of money to a council on receipt of a planning permission would be unlawful

Countryside campaigners have branded government plans to pay councils that award planning permission for new homes unlawful.

The move by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, with the backing of legal opinion by John Hobson QC, is the latest blow to the government’s localism plans, which have been very controversial with developers.

The government has launched the final version of its New Homes Bonus, under which councils are paid the equivalent of six years council tax, an average of £8,500, for each home given planning permission.

The legal opinion sought by the CPRE says that payment of money to a council on receipt of a planning permission could be seen as an undue influence on the planning process, which is supposed to be independent in law. It says any decision would therefore be able to be quashed under judicial review.

Neil Sinden, director of policy at the CPRE, said: “Our deepest fear is that the New Homes Bonus could revolutionise the way planning decisions are taken in a hugely damaging way”.

Figures from the Home Builders’ Federation are expected to show a continued sharp fall in planning application decisions in the last three months.

The news comes as decentralisation minister Greg Clark told Building he was prepared to consider widespread calls from developers to put a presumption in favour of sustainable development in to the Localism Bill.