Press Releases


District Councils, who are responsible for approving 90 per cent of  planning applications, and enabled almost half of all housing completions in the last year, have issued their response to the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning process.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) is particularly concerned about the many “Five-year Land Supply” permissions which are granted partially due to the lack of supply of new, affordable housing, but which then sees little or no building out of those permissions over that period.

However, once that point of permission has passed, and development has technically commenced, councils have little leverage, and there is no straightforward mechanism that can be brought to bear to compel developers to complete building.

The DCN therefore believes that further measures should be introduced to make sure landowners and developers deliver on their commitments to build new homes for their communities. These could include:

  • Legislative measures if necessary, to ensure that landowners and developers build out approved properties.
  • Simplified compulsory purchase powers where a developer who has failed to commence construction within a set period (such as two years) of receiving planning permission, or failed to apply for planning permission despite a site being allocated for housing in an adopted Local Plan (so called “step-in” rights). This could also include removing any right of appeal against compulsory purchase other than at appropriate market value.
  • Charging multiples of council tax where developments aren’t finished. This could see councils gaining the power to charge many multiples of tax bands for dwellings that have been permitted, but have yet to be constructed.

The District Councils Network is also calling for clarity about the future of the Community Infrastructure Levy at the Autumn Budget later this month. The better “tying in” of CIL to Local Plan viability plans recently announced by the Planning Minister are very positive step, and the DCN is keen to see further progress in this direction.

Finally, the DCN strongly supports the creation of new locally accountable New Town Development Corporations. (NTDCS). Any legislation creating these new bodies should allow local authorities to effectively operate as the Secretary of State, as far as possible, especially when it comes to planning for performance and selecting board members.

Cllr John Fuller Chairman of the District Councils Network said

“District councils are determined to deliver the new homes that our residents need, both market and affordable – but only by ensuring that developers build out approved homes can this be achieved.

“In many areas landholders and promoters are very keen to get land allocated in a local plan. This means that more land typically comes forward than might be required and therefore councils will be keen to support the schemes which are on the most appropriate and deliverable sites. However if landowners and developers do not follow through on the implied contract made early on, then Councils’ powers are significantly reduced. We need to make sure that a degree of negotiating tension continues throughout the process.

“That is why we have suggested a range of options to Government, from charging powers to simplified compulsory purchase, that can make sure that district councils, who approve nine out of ten planning applications, are able to hold developers to account and make sure that every better ensure that single the homes we approve gets constructed.

“District councils take their responsibility to address our national housing shortage seriously. That’s why we’re keen that the Government take this opportunity to allow District Councils, who are closest to their residents, to ensure that the homes our residents need are actually built by developers – but only if we can hold landowners and developers properly to account.”



Read the full consultation response from the District Council Network here