by Ed Dade
Posted on Feb. 19, 2019
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has today published the results of the Housing Delivery Test (HDT).
The HDT was first mooted by the Housing White Paper, back in February 2017. The HDT calculates the number of new homes built, as a percentage of the number of homes needed over the past three years. MHCLG has published a HDT figure for every council area in England, and indicates it will re-calculate the HDT annually.
The purpose of the HDT is to hold local authorities to account over the supply of new housing.
Where the HDT shows the delivery of new homes has fallen below 95% of the district or borough's housing requirement over the previous three years, the council should prepare an Action Plan to assess the causes of under-delivery and identify actions to increase delivery in future years.
Where the HDT shows a district's housing delivery is less than 85%, the council must add an additional buffer when calculating its Five Year Land Supply - equivalent to one extra year's worth of housing.
Whilst the HDT is intended to punish local planning authorities, it can have implications for neighbourhood planning.
In paragraph 11, the NPPF sets out a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'. Where policies of the development plan (Local Plans + Neighbourhood Plans) are 'out-of-date', the development should be granted planning permission unless it conflicts with other policies of the NPPF, or adverse impacts of the scheme outweigh the benefits.
Failure to satisfy the HDT will render policies of the development plan 'out-of-date' - meaning planning applications will be judged against the NPPF's presumption in favour of sustainable development. From the publication of today's HDT results, policies will become out-of-date for any Council with an HDT figure less than 25%. The worst performing local planning authority area, the New Forest, has an HDT figure of 35% - therefore no plans have become out-of-date as a result of today's published figures.
However, in November 2019 the HDT threshold will rise to 45%, and will further increase to 75% from November 2020. This means that in the not too distant future, planning policies contained in some Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans will become out-of-date as a result of the HDT.
Paragraph 14 provides extra protection for Neighbourhood Plans in situations where the 'tilted balance' of the presumption in favour of sustainable development applies, subject to meeting certain criteria (as discussed in my post "Presumption-proofing" Neighbourhood Plans). However, to benefit from this additional protection the HDT figure must be at least 45%. Seven local planning authority areas failed to achieve this threshold. Therefore if the NPPF's 'tilted balance' is already being applied (for example, where the authority does not have a demonstrable five year housing land supply), some Neighbourhood Plans may already find their policies to be out-of date as a result of the HDT.
For Neighbourhood Plans in districts where housing delivery is poor, the HDT is a real threat. This is somewhat unfair as Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Forums (fora?) are powerless to affect rates of house-building across the wider district. In such situations, the Neighbourhood Plan will be at the mercy of the local planning authority to approve planning applications and house-builders to build out their sites.
To view the results of the Housing Delivery Test, try my Housing Delivery Test Checker.