Housing delivery test results shelved until after general election

The results of this year's housing delivery test have been postponed until after December's general election, the government has confirmed.

The MHCLG headquarters in Marsham Street. Pic: Steve Cadman
The MHCLG headquarters in Marsham Street. Pic: Steve Cadman

The delivery test is one of a number of key policy announcements that had been due before Christmas, including the Accelerated Planning White Paper and the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission on improving the design quality of new developments.

However, all of these have now been shelved until after the 12 December general election due to purdah rules forbidding government departments from making political announcements during an election campaign, a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman has confirmed to Planning.

The Environment Bill has also been stopped in its tracks as it was still being considered when Parliament was dissolved on Wednesday morning and must be re-introduced by the new government.

The delivery test, which was introduced in July 2018’s revised NPPF, aims to ensure that local authorities actually build enough homes as well as plan for them.

It works by imposing various sanctions on authorities who fail to deliver enough new dwellings over three years against their housing requirement.

Under the test, authorities who deliver less than 95 per cent of their requirement must devise an action plan to address the problem. Those who deliver less than 85 per cent must also identify a "buffer" of 20 per cent more housing sites to add to their land supply position, while those delivering less than 45 per cent face the NPPF's presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The results for this year's test were due in November 2019, as stated in the last year's revised NPPF. In September, housing and planning minister Esther McVey told Planning that the test results would be published in November.

Asked about the expected policy announcements, an MHCLG spokeswoman pointed to Cabinet Office guidance that forbids departments from handling any "statements that refer to the future intentions of the government" during purdah. 

The spokeswoman confirmed that the housing delivery test, though based on existing policy, would be subject to the same purdah rules and would also be delayed until a new government is formed after the election.

Last year's results were also delayed by about two and a half months.

They were due in November 2018, as stated in the July 2018 NPPF, but did not appear until mid-February.

Commentators said the delay was due to the MHCLG collecting data from local authorities and checking the results were accurate. 

Meanwhile, the MHCLG said last month that the white paper would emerge this month and would include a host of proposed changes to the planning system. These include higher application fees, the potential for fees to be refunded if councils take too long determining applications and eased rules for upward extensions and demolishing offices for new homes.

The final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission was due to be submitted to the government by the end of the year.

An analysis article examining the impact of the general election on the government's policy and legislation programme can be found here.

A special report on housing delivery test action plans can be found here.

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