Housing development

How Planning can solve the housing crisis

There is a shortfall of more than 90,000 residential consents a year in areas of England where housing need is highest, according to a new Savills report. This is the equivalent of over 700 homes delivered per year in every high-demand district.

Although the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has helped boost overall consent numbers – there has been a 56 per cent increase in annual consents in the four years since the NPPF was introduced – it has not achieved its stated goal of responding to market signals and planning for homes in areas where affordability is the most stretched, particularly London and its surrounds.This means that we are not building enough homes in areas where they are most needed to improve affordability and support economic productivity.

Each local authority in England was assessed on its post-NPPF Local Plan Status, its five-year land supply and how it performs on the proposed Housing Delivery Test (HDT) outlined in the Housing White Paper. The assessment identified 10 local authorities that are particularly constrained (see table, below) in that they cannot demonstrate a five-year housing supply and have a housing affordability ratio greater than the national average. Only one of the authorities has a post-NPPF local plan in place. In terms of geography, all 10 of the authorities are in the South East and are strongly connected to London and face the additional challenge of containing land designated as Green Belt that is a constraint on land supply.

The 10 constrained local authorities


Increased emphasis on ‘homes in the right places’ could mean big increases in housing requirements in London and its commuter belt when a standardised approach based on household projections is applied to five-year land supply assessments from April 2018. London’s assessed housing need could double to more than 100,000 per year under the new system, creating a pressing need for cooperation across London and the wider South East in order to address this requirement.

According to Savills Research Director Chris Buckle, there continues to be a massive shortfall in London and its surrounds and it is this misalignment of housing need versus delivery which could ultimately hinder economic growth.

In addition to these pressures, a further consequence of the lack of a five-year land supply is that the affected local authorities are vulnerable to having their decisions to refuse housing sites overturned at appeal: 61 local authorities across England have lost at appeal having refused housing sites because they did not have a five-year land supply in place. An additional 61 authorities have a published housing land supply of less than five years.

The Housing White Paper places greater pressure on local planning authorities to provide a deliverable pipeline of land for housing. However, progress on preparing local plans continues to be slow. While the number of local authorities in England with an up-to-date local plan has increased in the past two years, still only 41 per cent have an NPPF-compliant plan in place and of the 33 London boroughs this figure is 39 per cent.

At this rate of plan-making it will be 2025 before there will be total coverage of local plans, which is the Government's target. The new Housing Delivery Test means there has to be a real push from local authorities both to identify more land for housing and to ensure those sites are delivered, particularly in locations of higher need. Without this, the demand for new homes will go unfulfilled and the housing crisis will persist.

Further information

Read more: Planning to solve the housing crisis


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