New research has highlighted serious concerns over the ability of local authorities to invest in infrastructure and build social housing, as a result of government planning changes.
More than half of local authorities say the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF) ‘viability test’ stops them from building affordable homes.
And more than two thirds of councils say their dominant model of delivering social and affordable housing is currently via developer contributions such as Section 106 agreements.
According to the Town and Country Planning Association and the Association of Public Service Excellence, which published the research, this raises ‘serious questions’ about government policy.
The organisations call on the government to clarify if ‘the developer-contribution model of funding social and affordable housing, via planning obligations, remains a policy objective’ and if not where replacement investment might come from.
Their report Let's house the nation, calls on ministers to reverse recent changes, which exempt developments of 10 homes or less from Section 106 affordable housing contributions. It also suggests the Government amend the NPPF viability test to make it more balanced and reverse the central deregulation of permitted development.
Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE said: ‘We should not underestimate the impact of lack of supply of social housing on market rents. This adds pressure to both local and central government finances. To rebalance the social housing market we need an ambitious programme of bringing new social housing schemes to fruition.
‘Local councils need to be at the heart of delivering new high quality and affordable homes for rent. It is possible to achieve this but we need Westminster to share that ambition.’
However it does argue the expansion of combined authorities in England is a ‘major opportunity’ to develop more effective local planning systems.
‘Government should play a role in this process by ensuring combined authorities can adopt strategic spatial plans with statutory weight and that the scope, timescales and content of such plans allows them to best support local planning and coordinate cross border relationships with other city regions and combined authorities,’ the report states.
The news follows the national introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on 6 April, which limited the number of developer contributions any single infrastructure project can receive.
New Government measures mean local authorities are no longer allowed to pool five or more Section 106 obligations together to fund a single infrastructure scheme.