Almost one in six local planning authorities in England must presume in favour of sustainable development following the release of the Government’s Housing Delivery Test figures for 2021.
Despite an easing of the calculations to allow for the disruption caused by the pandemic, more than 15% of local authorities delivered less than 75% of their housing need, the threshold that triggers the “presumption” consequence for sustainable development.
A further 6% of authorities will be required to increase their five-year land supply for housing by 20% having delivered 85% of homes against target, while another 7% that delivered less than 95% of the target will need to produce an action plan to tackle the deficit.
The Housing Delivery Test is one of the measures the Government has introduced to tackle supply of new homes in England.
It is the second year that the 75% threshold has existed for triggering “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, a National Planning Policy Framework policy that requires developments meeting sustainable criteria and the authority’s local plan be given planning permission “without delay.”
Crucially, the policy also allows for sustainable development to be given permission where no up-to-date local development plan exists, meaning the planning application in those areas would be subject to the policies of the national framework alone.
Developers should therefore expect the planning “presumption” to count in their favour when applying for permission for sustainable development in these areas.
The map below shows how local planning authorities performed in 2021 against the Housing Delivery Test. The darker tones show those authorities that failed to meet the 95% target of the test. The map also indicates the status of their local development plan according to records held by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, correct at the time of publication.
Early commentators and analysis from 2020’s figures – the first year in which the full target thresholds were applied – suggest the presumption consequence has little impact on increasing the supply of new homes.
Court appeals have clarified that presumption does not override the policies of any adopted, up-to-date local development plan, nor the policies in the national planning framework where an up-to-date local plan does not exist.
Many authorities delivering below 75% target are highly developed urban areas or constrained by green belt, restricting the availability of viable land.
Some industry experts are calling on Government to give the Housing Delivery Test extra weight in the planning process if it is to be a key driver in building up to 300,000 new homes a year.
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