Housing white paper: councils under the cosh

11 February 2017 – by Alexander Peace

Proposals in this week’s housing white paper would see more than one-third of the UK’s local authorities forced to green-light planning applications.


In London, this percentage would rise to a whopping 84.8%, according to data compiled by EG.

This week’s white paper said that any local authority failing to meet 25% of its housing need by 2018 and 65% by 2020 would have to have a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, effectively forcing them to grant permission for schemes.

The test will use local plans, where they have been completed, as a baseline for assessing housing need. Where these are not available, household population growth against additional dwellings will be used.

EG found that 125 authorities had not met 65% of their household creation requirements over the past three years under the proposed new test.

In London, 28 of 33 authorities had not met that criteria.

Outside London, other major urban centres are failing to deliver enough homes to keep up with population growth, with Manchester and Birmingham failing to deliver 50% of their requirements.

Nine authorities, including Haringey, Redbridge, Camden and Southend-on-Sea, had not exceeded the 25% threshold.

Lucian Cook, director of residential research at Savills, said the plans would create an extra burden to ensure local authorities are held to account.

“They mean local authorities are more likely to have to take a much more proactive approach to supporting development within their area of administration,” he said.

Some councils believe measuring using additional housing delivered, as opposed to permissions granted, is unfair, as once consent has been given, it is difficult to enforce build out.

Andrew Davie, development infrastructure group manager at Central Bedfordshire Council, said measures in the white paper to encourage developers to build, most notably permissions being valid for two years rather than three, would not transfer into increased delivery.

“Ideas about shortening planning permission do not make any difference; someone has got to build the houses,” he said.

“While [on completion notices] the word completion is misleading as it does not mean you complete, but take the planning permission away.”

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