The District Councils Network (DCN) has called for a freeze the Housing Delivery Test (HDT), and therefore housebuilding targets, and five-year land-supply requirements for town halls.
In light of a recent survey, the DCN, which represents 187 local authorities across England with housing and planning functions, says that councils are at risk of being unfairly penalised for missing housebuilding targets because of the construction slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DCN found that 62% of councils fear they will not meet their HDT obligations. Scores below 75% when the 2020 HDT is published will result in a council’s planning policy becoming subject to the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
As such, local authorities must give greater weight to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) relative to their local policies when deciding on planning applications.
Sites not part of local plans may therefore be more likely to receive planning permission, as long as proposals meet NPPF criteria.
The DCN survey also found 57% of councils are “very concerned” about the pandemic’s impact on their ability to sustain a supply of land for housing over the next five years.
Failure to identify a five-year land supply also results in councils becoming subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
Mark Crane, lead member for stronger economies at the DCN and leader of Selby District Council, said: “Councils have serious concerns that they will be unfairly penalised as a result of housebuilding slowing down because of the coronavirus crisis.
“The loss of new homes built will have a significant impact on the five-year land supply, which without protection would allow developers to bypass local community wishes.
“We need the government to focus on achieving delivery of housebuilding on allocated sites and avoid the corrosive effects of speculative development where communities don’t have a say.”
The government is expected to publish a paper detailing a major reform of England’s planning system later this week.