Housing delivery test figures – what the latest data means

Housing delivery across England

On 19th February 2019, results from the Housing Delivery Test 2018 were released by The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This is now an annual measurement of housing delivery in plan-making local authorities.

This article reviews some of the key findings from this test and sets out the potential implications of these on local planning authorities and on decision making, within the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

You can see how your council is performing in terms of housing delivery in the table below:


At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. Paragraph 11 of the NPPF sets out the definitions of this term and its application in the context of plan-making and decision-taking.  Footnote 7 of this paragraph identifies two ways in which local policies, for determining a planning application involving the provision of housing, can be found “out of date”. These are:

  1. Where the LPA cannot demonstrate a 5YHLS with appropriate BUFFER
  2. Failing the HOUSING DELIVERY test (75% below housing requirement over the previous 3 years). Although transitional arrangements are Nov 2018 = 25%; Nov 2019 = 45%; and Nov 2020 = 75%.

This can then trigger Paragraph 11, meaning planning permission should be granted unless other material considerations exist which would provide a clear reason for refusing the development.

Housing delivery

In terms of the Housing Delivery Test, no councils are currently delivering below 25% of the housing requirement. Seven councils may fail the test in 2019 if they do not improve housing delivery. And 57 councils may fail the test in 2020 if they continue to fail to deliver the housing required.

In terms of the potential practical implications of this, whilst there is no immediate triggering of Paragraph 11’s “presumption in favour” via the latest housing delivery test results, there should be alarm bells ringing for 57 councils. Their borderline status following these latest results could be used as a material consideration when assessing a planning application for residential dwellings, especially when viewed in light of the government’s overarching goal of significantly boosting housing supply.

Impact of the buffer

The figures also highlighted several councils requiring a housing delivery buffer. This has a potentially bigger and more immediate impact.

86 councils now need to account for a 20% buffer on housing due to a significant under delivery of housing over the previous three years. This is to improve the prospect of achieving the planned supply.

This could mean that these 86 councils cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing supply, thereby triggering Paragraph 11 of the NPPF and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Action Plans

Where the Housing Delivery Test indicates that delivery has fallen below 95% of the local planning authority’s housing requirement over the previous three years, the authority should then prepare an action plan in line with national planning guidance, to assess the causes of under delivery and identify actions to increase delivery in future years.

This affects 108 councils.

These councils will need to present an action plan which includes:

  • encouraging the development of small sites and higher site densities;
  • establishing whether certain applications can be prioritised;
  • setting out new policies aimed at increasing delivery;
  • carrying out a new Call for Sites.

Again, this represents a useful material consideration, but the Action Plan status itself doesn’t trigger the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The latest figures clearly show the problems facing local planning authorities in terms of meeting their housing delivery targets. Without proactive steps to encourage new development in the right places, many councils could find themselves vulnerable to speculative development.

In terms of what this means for developers, it is encouraging to see that small and medium sized site delivery is being supported and seen as a key to unlocking the potential of larger sites too. We will continue to keep a close eye on local authority housing supply figures and will be interested to see the impact of the HDT results in the coming months and years.

About us

The team at Plainview Planning are focussed on delivering the right development in the right places. We specialise in planning for SME sites and can advise you on the development potential of your land and prepare a robust planning strategy for moving your project forwards.

If you have a site that you think might be suitable for development contact the team via  Alternatively feel free to submit your site via our Landmark form for a no obligation bespoke fee quote for our services.

INFORMATION SOURCE: MHCLG Housing Delivery Test: 2018 measurement