The councils that could face the housing delivery test's presumption penalty in November 2020

Almost one in five authorities could face the housing delivery test's most severe penalty in November 2020 if their housebuilding rates do not increase, according to Planning research.

Ipswich Borough Council offices. Pic: Getty Images
Ipswich Borough Council offices. Pic: Getty Images

The delivery test imposes various sanctions on authorities who fail to deliver over the previous three financial years against their housing requirement. 

The first results for the delivery test, which was introduced in July 2018's revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), were published in February by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and cover the three-year period 2015/16-2017/18.

The second test results, covering 2016-19, were due last month. However, they have been postponed, the housing ministry told Planning last month, until after the general election.

Ahead of the government's release of the official 2019 test figures, Planning carried out its own  research to estimate what the results might be. More details on our methodology can be found here.

We found that this year, 112 authorities - or 34 per cent - scored under 95 per cent and seem set to face a penalty under the test, which means they will have to at minimum produce an action plan showing how they will improve their housing delivery performance over the next year. These include eight that we predict will come under 45 per cent and therefore face the most severe penalty, the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Next year, the threshold for the most severe penalty is increased to 75 per cent at which level it will stay in future years. 

According to our research (see below), 59 councils - just under a fifth of all English local planning authorities - delivered less than 75 per cent of their housing requirement between 2016 and 2019. 

In addition to the eight facing the presumption in 2019, these include Medway in Kent, Ipswich, Calderdale and Epsom and Ewell councils, which all delivered less than half of their requirement, according to our research.

The 2020, due in November 2020, will consider delivery rates between April 1 2017 and March 31 2020, meaning these councils have until March 31 next year to increase the number of homes created in their areas. 

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said the authority does "not dispute the figures put forward". 

He said the council is "aware of delivery issues in Ipswich and is addressing this through actions", which include the publication and implementation of a housing delivery action plan and a review of its local plan.

In addition, it will implement a council housebuilding programme, "which is expected to deliver completions in 2020" and will recruit a "further two planning officers in January".

"Completions for 2019-20 are confidently expected to exceed the level for 2018-19," he added. 

Calderdale Council’s corporate lead for planning, Richard Seaman, said: "The estimated increase of 11 per cent from 2017/18 to 2018/19 is in line with our own assessments."

Seaman said the council is "taking action to step up our housing delivery", including consulting on changes to Calderdale’s draft local plan, which would "see delivery of 997 new homes annually".

To help deliver this number, he said the council is focusing concentrating houses "within existing sites which are close to good transport links, for example within town centres, as well as identifying some new sites close to bus and rail provision".

This year's official MHCLG results for 2018 showed that an almost identical number - 58 councils - delivered under 75 per cent of their requirement. 

Full details from our study of all the 112 councils' estimated housing requirement and delivery figures can be found here.

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