Permission in principle could be used to boost housing delivery by one in four councils in the most under-performing areas

A quarter of published housing delivery test (HDT) action plans for significantly under-delivering areas say permission in principle could be used to help boost housebuilding, according to research by Planning.

Housing delivery: one in four councils considering using permission in principle to speed up delivery
Housing delivery: one in four councils considering using permission in principle to speed up delivery

Planning has studied 67 action plans published so far by authorities in areas shown by the HDT to have delivered fewer than 85 per cent of their target number of homes over the previous three years.

The research shows that 25 per cent of the authorities are considering the use of permission in principle.

The mechanism was introduced by the Housing and Planning Act 2016 in order to provide a fast-track route for planning applications for housing schemes, but research published in March found that it has been used by relatively few local authorities so far.  

The potential to use planning permission in principle was flagged in planning practice guidance issued by the government earlier this year on what the action plans might contain. Planning’s research finds that 16 councils say they will consider using this route in their action plans. View our exclusive council-by-council breakdown of proposed actions to tackle housing under-delivery to see the identity of the councils considering permission in principle, and to view their action plans.  

Experts gave a cautious welcome to the finding. "If that is something that flows from action plans, then that’s a positive," said Andrew Jackson, head of development economics at consultancy Boyer Planning.

Matthew Good, director at consultancy Pegasus Group, welcomed the finding, but warned that local authorities will need to be realistic in assessing whether sites going on the list can deliver housing.

Among other actions promised by the councils...

  • Two-thirds of councils say they will consider increasing direct delivery of housing, either through the setting up of a council-owned housing company or involvement in a joint venture
  • Slightly more than half say they are planning new allocations or area designations in DPDs
  • Half are planning calls for sites of Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments
  • 45 per cent intend to review use of conditions
  • 30 per cent plan to review planning department resource and/or capacity
  • 28 per cent are considering CPOs or direct purchase of land
  • 25 per cent say they will encourage the use of small sites
  • 15 per cent say that they will explore higher density development

View our exclusive council-by-council breakdown of proposed actions to tackle housing under-delivery to see the identity of the councils considering permission in principle, and to view their action plans.  

The research finds that more than 20 councils have yet to publish a housing delivery test action plan, more than two months after the deadline for producing the documents passed. 

There are no direct consequences for failure to produce a plan, but commentators have suggested that local authorities could be vulnerable at appeals considering housing supply if they don’t have a published plan in place. 

Richard Crawley, programme manager at the Planning Advisory Service, said: "The view of the government is that the action plan is not a punishment or homework but something that councils should be doing for their own benefit, and that they are not going to sanction those who don’t produce one". 

But he added that it will be difficult for councils to appear at an appeal without an action plan and "be able to argue that their plan is up-to-date and working". "That is the implied sanction," he said.

Michael Knott, director at consultants Barton Willmore, said it is "very likely the case that the absence of an action plan would be viewed dimly by an inspector considering housing land supply".  

The most common causes for under-delivery cited in the action plans are stalled or delayed sites (67 per cent), housing market factors (58 per cent), limited site availability or site-level complexities (both 54 per cent). 




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