A cross-party committee of MPs has been reviewing plans to make planning targets advisory not mandatory

The government’s proposed planning reforms could make meeting annual housebuilding targets “impossible,” according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs. 

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has been looking into the government’s plans to scrap mandatory local housing targets. In December last year, the government said it planned to make the targets advisory rather than mandatory. It also plans to remove the need for local authorities to continually demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing land supply.

clive betts

Clive Betts, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, says the prospect of delivery being hit by planning changes is “deeply concerning”

The report says these changes will make the government’s target of building 300,000 homes in England per year by the mid-2020s “difficult” and that it has heard evidence from many stakeholders that it will render the national housing target “impossible to achieve”.

The report raises the importance of ensuring affordable housing forms a substantial proportion of the 300,000 new homes delivered each year. It calls on the government to include 90,000 social rent homes per year as part of its 300,000 building target.

It also highlights the significant resource challenges faced by local council planning departments and criticises the government for failing to set out a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector. 

Clive Betts, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, said: “We have a national shortage of housing in England and there’s evidence the government’s latest shake-up of planning rules is already having a damaging impact on efforts to increase the building of new homes.

“Planning consultants say annual housebuilding will go down to around 150,000 a year under the government’s proposed policy reforms.  

He adds: “The prospect of a major hit to the building of new homes resulting from the government’s planning rule changes is deeply concerning.” 

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, spokesperson said: “We remain committed to our ambition of delivering 300,000 homes per year and to retaining a clear starting point for calculating local housing needs. 

“We know the best way to deliver more homes is having more up-to-date local plans in place, which is why we have recently consulted on changes to planning policy.

“Local planning authorities are best placed to and identify sites where homes can be delivered to meet local needs, and we expect them to make sufficient provision for housing.”

According to research commissioned by the National Housing Federation and Crisis in 2018, 340,000 homes need to be built annually until 2031 to fill a four-million-home shortage in England.

Current numbers are far below this, with 216,000 net additions to the housing stock in 2020-21 and 243,000 in 2019-20 pre-pandemic.