Swindon, Teignbridge and Welwyn Hatfield councils have all begun drafting local development orders (LDOs) for housing. These pre-grant permission for certain kinds of development on specific sites.
In June, chancellor George Osborne said that he wanted English councils to implement LDOs on more than 90 per cent of suitable brownfield by 2020, to allow construction of 200,000 homes.
A £5 million fund was launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in August to help town halls create the first 100 housing LDOs. Each council can bid for up to £50,000 and sites should be for more than 100 homes.
David Dewart, Swindon Borough Council's planning service manager, said it intends to bid and is mulling three LDOs for a total of 105 homes.
Two sites are council-owned and the other privately, Dewart said. The council sites are being considered for custom build and for a supported living scheme respectively, he said.
All the sites are deemed deliverable in Swindon's strategic housing land availability assessment, he added.
Teignbridge and Welwyn Hatfield councils, in Devon and Hertfordshire respectively, are both taking part in a pilot scheme run by the Local Government Association's Planning Advisory Service (PAS).
PAS is offering £25,000 and consultancy support to help councils deliver brownfield LDOs for schemes of up to 100 homes. PAS principal consultant Phillipa Silcock said the DCLG has asked it to run four pilots.
According to PAS, Teignbridge District Council's proposed LDO would help deliver a mixed-use housing and commercial scheme on a site near Teignmouth town centre.
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, meanwhile, intends to draft an order granting permission for housing on a redundant employment site.
Meanwhile, a fourth authority, Cheshire East Council, said it is considering a pilot LDO to create homes on brownfield land in Macclesfield and may also bid for funding. Last month, it agreed to start working with site owners and discuss plans with the government.
Matt Thomson, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said its research had found that viability not planning is a bigger obstacle to brownfield housing, so an LDO could only help on sites that are not too expensive for developers.
Thomson also pointed out that councils could be encouraged by the fact that implementing LDOs should contribute to their five-year housing land supply, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework.