The Government has told councils the number of homes it thinks they need to deliver every year as part of Whitehall plans to boost housing.
Proposals published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on Thursday (14 September) include a standard method for calculating councils’ housing need and an ‘indicative assessment’ for each authority.
The DCLG insisted its proposed system does not set targets but described the figures as a ‘starting point to ensure that it will be quicker for each local area to produce a realistic plan of its housing need’.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: 'We are not attempting to micro-manage local development.
'We’re not dictating targets from on-high.
'All we are doing is setting out a clear, consistent process for assessing what may be needed in the years to come.
'How to meet the demand, whether it’s possible to meet the demand, where to develop, where not to develop, what to develop, how to work with neighbouring authorities and so on remains a decision for local authorities and local communities.'
The DCLG claimed councils in England currently spent an estimated £3m every year employing consultants to work out how many new homes were needed in their area.
Mr Javid continued: ‘This new approach will cut the unnecessarily complex and lengthy debates that can delay house building.
‘It will make sure we have a clear and realistic assessment of how many new homes are needed, and ensure local communities have a voice in deciding where they go.’
A DCLG spokeswoman added: ‘The proposed changes will help boost housing supply and improve affordability.
‘It will help ensure councils work to a consistent approach to plan for more homes in the right places.
'This is a crucial first step in solving the country’s housing crisis.’
The DCLG also suggested that only those areas where local planning authorities were ‘delivering the homes their communities need’ would be entitled to increased planning fees.
Housing minister Alok Sharma said there would be a 20% planning application fee increase for local authorities that committed to investing the additional income in their planning department, with potentially a further 20% for councils that met demand.
Areas that struggle to meet their needs locally have been told they will ‘need to work with neighbouring councils to plan across a wider area’.
A public consultation will run for eight weeks.
Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: 'There could be benefits to having a standard approach to assessing the need for housing, but a formula drawn up in Whitehall can never fully understand the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.
'Ultimately, we need a renaissance in council house building if we’re to deliver the affordable homes this country needs – national ambitions will not be realised without new freedoms and powers for councils.'
This story first appeared on themj.co.uk.