Councils' action plans on housing delivery are a mine of essential information, by Richard Garlick

In this edition, we publish the results of our survey of councils' action plans for increasing the delivery of housing.

All councils in areas that delivered less than 95 per cent of the new homes needed in 2015-18 were required to produce these plans by August. As we report, although 21 of the 108 authorities affected do not yet appear to have published a plan, the vast majority have complied.

However, even reading a handful of the documents reveals huge variations in councils’ approach to the exercise. Some of the action plans are exhaustive, and most come across as thorough and serious attempts to set out how housing delivery could be increased. A few, however, come across as doing the minimum possible without actively confronting ministers with a refusal to take part.

We’ve read all 67 action plans for the parts of England that are underperforming sufficiently on housing delivery to be required to add a 20 per cent buffer to their five year housing land supply.

The documents are a mine of information about local planning authorities’ publicly-stated objectives with regards to improving delivery of new homes (see Special Report on pp16-21). The report identifies: 45 councils intending to use their own housebuilding company or increase direct delivery; 35 planning new allocations or area designations; 33 planning calls for sites or Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments; 30 reviewing use of planning conditions; 20 increasing planning department resources or capacity; 19 considering compulsory purchase orders or direct land purchase, 17 considering permission in principle, 17 encouraging small site schemes and ten considering higher densities. Visit our online version of the report at planningresource. com, and you will be to link directly to the action plans that set out these plans. The documents also show that these authorities think macroeconomic and site-specific factors play a bigger part than planning considerations in causing under-delivery.

Elsewhere in this issue, we explore how the government’s latest proposals to allow developers and property owners the "freedom" to demolish office buildings to make way for new homes might be taken forward, and which parts of the country they are most likely to affect. We also review how planning has shaped the development of Salford Quays over the past 40 years. And meet some of the few heads of planning service that remain in the most senior tier of local government beneath the chief executive, and explore what benefits their seniority brings their organisations.

Richard Garlick, editor, Planning //richard.garlick@haymarket.com


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