Guidance

Housing and economic land availability assessment

Guides councils in identifying appropriate land to meet development needs.

Planning practice guidance will, where necessary, be updated in due course to reflect changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (the new version of which was published in July 2018). Where any hyperlinks direct users to the previous National Planning Policy Framework (2012), please disregard these. If you’d like an email alert when changes are made to planning guidance please subscribe.

Where plans are being prepared under the transitional arrangements set out in Annex 1 to the revised National Planning Policy Framework, the policies in the previous version of the framework published in 2012 will continue to apply, as will any previous guidance which has been superseded since the new framework was published in July 2018.

What is the purpose of the assessment of land availability?

An assessment of land availability identifies a future supply of land which is suitable, available and achievable for housing and economic development uses over the plan period. The assessment of land availability includes the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment requirement as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The assessment of land availability is an important step in the preparation of Local Plans. The National Planning Policy Framework identifies the advantages of carrying out land assessments for housing and economic development as part of the same exercise, in order that sites may be allocated for the use which is most appropriate.

An assessment should:

This approach ensures that all land is assessed together as part of plan preparation to identify which sites or broad locations are the most suitable and deliverable for a particular use.

See related policy:

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About the assessment

How does the assessment relate to the development plan process?

The assessment forms a key component of the evidence base to underpin policies in development plans for housing and economic development, including supporting the delivery of land to meet identified need for these uses.

From the assessment, plan makers will then be able to plan proactively by choosing sites to go forward into their development plan documents to meet objectively assessed needs.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with separate guidance on the application of town centre planning policy, which includes the sequential test for locating town centre uses.

See related policy: annex 2: glossary

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Does the assessment allocate land in development plans?

The assessment is an important evidence source to inform plan making but does not in itself determine whether a site should be allocated for development. This is because not all sites considered in the assessment will be suitable for development (eg because of policy constraints or if they are unviable). It is the role of the assessment to provide information on the range of sites which are available to meet need, but it is for the development plan itself to determine which of those sites are the most suitable to meet those needs.

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Can designated neighbourhood forums and parish/town councils use the guidance?

Designated neighbourhood forums and parish/town councils may use the methodology to assess sites but any assessment should be proportionate. Neighbourhood forums and parish councils may also refer to existing site assessments prepared by the local planning authority as a starting point when identifying sites to allocate within a neighbourhood plan.

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Can plan makers use a different methodology?

This guidance indicates what inputs and processes should lead to a robust assessment of land availability. Plan makers should have regard to the guidance in preparing their assessments. Where they depart from the guidance, plan makers will have to set out reasons for doing so. The assessment should be thorough but proportionate, building where possible on existing information sources outlined within the guidance.

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Methodology – flowchart

Methodology - flowchart

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Methodology – Stage 1: Identification of sites and broad locations

Determine assessment area and site size

What geographical area should the assessment cover?

The area selected for the assessment should be the housing market area and functional economic market area. This could be the local planning authority area or a different area such as 2 or more local authority areas or areas covered by the Local Enterprise Partnership.

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Who should plan makers work with?

The assessment should be undertaken and regularly reviewed working with other local planning authorities in the relevant housing market area or functional economic market area, in line with the duty to cooperate.

The following should be involved from the earliest stages of plan preparation, which includes the evidence base in relation to land availability: developers; those with land interests; land promoters; local property agents; local communities; partner organisations; Local Enterprise Partnerships; businesses and business representative organisations; parish and town councils; neighbourhood forums preparing neighbourhood plans.

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Should the assessment be constrained by the need for development?

The assessment should identify all sites and broad locations regardless of the amount of development needed to provide an audit of available land. The process of the assessment will, however, provide the information to enable an identification of sites and locations suitable for the required development in the Local Plan.

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What site/broad location size should be considered for assessment?

Plan makers will need to assess a range of different site sizes from small-scale sites to opportunities for large-scale developments such as village and town extensions and new settlements where appropriate.

The assessment should consider all sites and broad locations capable of delivering 5 or more dwellings or economic development on sites of 0.25 hectares (or 500 square metres of floor space) and above. Where appropriate, plan makers may wish to consider alternative site size thresholds.

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How should sites/broad locations be identified?

When carrying out a desk top review, plan makers should be proactive in identifying as wide a range as possible of sites and broad locations for development (including those existing sites that could be improved, intensified or changed). Sites, which have particular policy constraints, should be included in the assessment for the sake of comprehensiveness but these constraints must be set out clearly, including where they severely restrict development. An important part of the desktop review, however, is to test again the appropriateness of other previously defined constraints, rather than simply to accept them.

Plan makers should not simply rely on sites that they have been informed about but actively identify sites through the desktop review process that may have a part to play in meeting the development needs of an area.

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What types of sites and sources of data should be used?

Plan makers should consider all available types of sites and sources of data that may be relevant in the assessment process but the following may be particularly relevant:

Type of site and potential data source

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Should plan makers issue a call for potential sites and broad locations for development?

Plan makers should issue a call for potential sites and broad locations for development, which should be aimed at as wide an audience as is practicable so that those not normally involved in property development have the opportunity to contribute. This should include parish councils and neighbourhood forums, landowners, developers, businesses and relevant local interest groups, and local notification/publicity. It may be possible to include notification of a call for sites in other local authority documentation (such as notification of local elections) to minimise costs.

Plan makers should also set out key information sought from respondents. This could include:

  • site location;
  • suggested potential type of development (eg economic development uses – retail, leisure, cultural, office, warehousing etc; residential – by different tenures, types and needs of different groups such as older people housing, private rented housing and people wishing to build or commission their own homes);
  • the scale of development;
  • constraints to development.

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What should be included in the site and broad location survey?

The comprehensive list of sites and broad locations derived from data sources and the call for sites should be assessed against national policies and designations to establish which have reasonable potential for development and should be included in the site survey.

Plan makers should then assess potential sites and broad locations via more detailed site surveys to:

  • ratify inconsistent information gathered through the call for sites and desk assessment;
  • get an up to date view on development progress (where sites have planning permission);
  • a better understanding of what type and scale of development may be appropriate;
  • gain a more detailed understanding of deliverability, any barriers and how they could be overcome;
  • identify further sites with potential for development that were not identified through data sources or the call for sites.

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How detailed should the survey be?

Site surveys should be proportionate to the detail required for a robust appraisal. For example, the assessment will need to be more detailed where sites are considered to be realistic candidates for development.

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What characteristics should be recorded during the survey?

During the site survey the following characteristics should be recorded (or checked if they were previously identified through the data sources and call for sites):

  • site size, boundaries, and location;
  • current land use and character;
  • land uses and character of surrounding area;
  • physical constraints (eg access, contamination, steep slopes, flooding, natural features of significance, location of infrastructure/utilities);
  • potential environmental constraints;
  • where relevant, development progress (eg ground works completed, number of units started, number of units completed);
  • initial assessment of whether the site is suitable for a particular type of use or as part of a mixed-use development.

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Methodology – Stage 2: Site/broad location assessment

Estimating the development potential of each site/broad location

How should the development potential be calculated?

The estimation of the development potential of each identified site should be guided by the existing or emerging plan policy including locally determined policies on density.

Where the plan policy is out of date or does not provide a sufficient basis to make a judgement then relevant existing development schemes can be used as the basis for assessment, adjusted for any individual site characteristics and physical constraints. The use of floor space densities for certain industries may also provide a useful guide.

The development potential is a significant factor that affects economic viability of a site/broad location and its suitability for a particular use. Therefore, assessing achievability (including viability) and suitability can usefully be carried out in parallel with estimating the development potential.

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What factors should be considered for when and whether sites/broad locations are likely to be developed?

Assessing the suitability, availability and achievability of sites including whether the site is economically viable will provide the information on which the judgement can be made in the plan-making context as to whether a site can be considered deliverable over the plan period.

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What factors should be considered when assessing the suitability of sites/broad locations for development?

Plan makers should assess the suitability of the identified use or mix of uses of a particular site or broad location including consideration of the types of development that may meet the needs of the community. These may include, but are not limited to: market housing, private rented, affordable housing, people wishing to build or commission their own homes, housing for older people, or for economic development uses.

Assessing the suitability of sites or broad locations for development should be guided by:

  • the development plan, emerging plan policy and national policy;
  • market and industry requirements in that housing market or functional economic market area.

When assessing the sites against the adopted development plan, plan makers will need to take account of how up to date the plan policies are and consider the appropriateness of identified constraints on sites/broad location and whether such constraints may be overcome.

Sites in existing development plans or with planning permission will generally be considered suitable for development although it may be necessary to assess whether circumstances have changed which would alter their suitability. This will include a re-appraisal of the suitability of previously allocated land and the potential to designate allocated land for different or a wider range of uses. This should be informed by a range of factors including the suitability of the land for different uses and by market signals, which will be useful in identifying the most appropriate use.

In addition to the above considerations, the following factors should be considered to assess a site’s suitability for development now or in the future:

  • physical limitations or problems such as access, infrastructure, ground conditions, flood risk, hazardous risks, pollution or contamination;
  • potential impacts including the effect upon landscapes including landscape features, nature and heritage conservation;
  • appropriateness and likely market attractiveness for the type of development proposed;
  • contribution to regeneration priority areas;
  • environmental/amenity impacts experienced by would be occupiers and neighbouring areas.

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What factors should be considered when assessing availability?

A site is considered available for development, when, on the best information available (confirmed by the call for sites and information from land owners and legal searches where appropriate), there is confidence that there are no legal or ownership problems, such as unresolved multiple ownerships, ransom strips tenancies or operational requirements of landowners. This will often mean that the land is controlled by a developer or landowner who has expressed an intention to develop, or the landowner has expressed an intention to sell. Because persons do not need to have an interest in the land to make planning applications, the existence of a planning permission does not necessarily mean that the site is available. Where potential problems have been identified, then an assessment will need to be made as to how and when they can realistically be overcome. Consideration should also be given to the delivery record of the developers or landowners putting forward sites, and whether the planning background of a site shows a history of unimplemented permissions.

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What factors should be considered when assessing achievability including whether the development of the site is viable?

A site is considered achievable for development where there is a reasonable prospect that the particular type of development will be developed on the site at a particular point in time. This is essentially a judgement about the economic viability of a site, and the capacity of the developer to complete and let or sell the development over a certain period.

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What happens when constraints are identified that impact on the suitability, availability and achievability?

Where constraints have been identified, the assessment should consider what action would be needed to remove them (along with when and how this could be undertaken and the likelihood of sites/broad locations being delivered). Actions might include the need for investment in new infrastructure, dealing with fragmented land ownership, environmental improvement, or a need to review development plan policy, which is currently constraining development.

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How should the timescale and rate of development be assessed and presented?

The local planning authority should use the information on suitability, availability, achievability and constraints to assess the timescale within which each site is capable of development. This may include indicative lead-in times and build-out rates for the development of different scales of sites. On the largest sites allowance should be made for several developers to be involved. The advice of developers and local agents will be important in assessing lead-in times and build-out rates by year.

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Methodology – Stage 3: Windfall assessment (where justified)

Determining the housing potential of windfall sites where justified

How should a windfall allowance be determined in relation to housing?

A windfall allowance may be justified in the 5-year supply if a local planning authority has compelling evidence as set out in paragraph 48 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Local planning authorities have the ability to identify broad locations in years 6-15, which could include a windfall allowance based on a geographical area (using the same criteria as set out in paragraph 48 of the National Planning Policy Framework).

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Methodology – Stage 4: Assessment review

How should the assessment be reviewed?

Once the sites and broad locations have been assessed, the development potential of all sites can be collected to produce an indicative trajectory. This should set out how much housing and the amount of economic development that can be provided, and at what point in the future. An overall risk assessment should be made as to whether sites will come forward as anticipated.

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What happens if the trajectory indicates that there are insufficient sites/broad locations to meet the objectively assessed need?

It may be concluded that insufficient sites/broad locations have been identified against objectively assessed needs. Plan makers will need to revisit the assessment, for example changing the assumptions on the development potential on particular sites (including physical and policy constraints) including sites for possible new settlements.

If, following this review there are still insufficient sites, then it will be necessary to investigate how this shortfall should best be planned for. If there s clear evidence that the needs cannot be met locally, it will be necessary to consider how needs might be met in adjoining areas in accordance with the duty to cooperate.

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Is it essential to identify specific developable sites or broad locations for housing growth for years 11-15?

As set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, local planning authorities should identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, where possible, for years 11-15. Local Plans can pass the test of soundness where local planning authorities have not been able to identify sites or broad locations for growth in years 11-15.

See related policy:

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Housing delivery: 5 year land supply

What is a 5 year land supply?

A 5 year land supply is a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide 5 years’ worth of housing against a housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies, or against a local housing need figure where appropriate in accordance with paragraph 73 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

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What is the purpose of the 5 year housing land supply?

The purpose of the 5 year housing land supply is to provide an indication of whether there are sufficient sites available to meet the housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies for the next 5 years.

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How can an authority demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites?

Housing requirement figures identified in strategic policies should be used as the starting point for calculating the 5 year land supply figure:

  • for the first 5 years of the plan, and

  • where the strategic housing policies plans are more than 5 years old, but have been reviewed and are found not to need updating.

In other circumstances, the starting point for calculating the 5 year land supply will be local housing need using the standard method.

Authorities can use evidence such as a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)/ Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) which will identify sites which may be suitable, available and achievable for housing development and also provide some evidence as to their deliverability. Sites should be deliverable in years 1 to 5 of the plan period, and subsequently reviewed and their status updated each year in the Authority Monitoring Report and Annual Position Statement (if confirming the 5 year housing land supply).

In order to demonstrate 5 years’ worth of deliverable housing sites, strategic policy-making authorities will need to provide robust, up to date evidence to support plan preparation. Their judgments on deliverability of housing sites, including windfall sites, will need to be clearly and transparently set out. Authorities may also consider how they can involve people with an interest in delivery in assessing the deliverability of sites. They may develop benchmarks and assumptions based on evidence of past trends for development lead-in times and build-out rates. Testing these assumptions with developers and using them to inform assessments of deliverability can also make deliverability assessments more robust.

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What is the starting point for 5 year housing land supply calculations in National Parks and the Broads Authority?

Housing requirements identified in strategic policies that are less than 5 years old will be the starting point in all areas, and for annual assessments. Where plans are more than 5 years old (and unless those policies have been reviewed and found not to require updating), the most appropriate locally derived housing requirement figure from an existing or emerging local plan may be used.

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What is the starting point for 5 year housing land supply calculations in Development Corporation areas?

In areas covered by Development Corporations with plan-making powers, housing requirements identified in strategic policies that are less than 5 years old will be the starting point. For Development Corporations covered by a Spatial Development Strategy which is less than 5 years old, the housing requirement set out in the Spatial Development Strategy may be used. For Development Corporations which do not have, or do not exercise, plan making powers the requirement will be set in the relevant strategic policies and monitored by the local authority.

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How is 5 year land supply measured where authorities have stepped rather than annual average requirements?

Five year land supply is measured across the plan period against the specific stepped requirements for the particular 5 year period. Stepped trajectories will need to ensure that planned housing requirements are met fully within the plan period.

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When is a stepped trajectory appropriate?

A stepped requirement may be appropriate where there is to be a significant change in the level of housing requirement between emerging and previous policies and/or where strategic sites will have a phased delivery or are likely to be delivered later in the plan period. Strategic policy-makers will need to set out evidence to support using stepped requirement figures, and not seek to unnecessarily delay meeting identified development needs. In reviewing and revising policies, strategic policy-makers should ensure there is not continued delay in meeting identified development needs.

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How is 5 year land supply measured where authorities set out their housing requirements as a range?

Where strategic policy-makers have successfully argued through plan-making and examination for a requirement set out as a range, the 5 year land supply will be measured against the lower end of the range.

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What constitutes a ‘deliverable site’ in the context of housing policy?

Annex 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework defines a deliverable site in terms of an assessment of the timescale for delivery and the planning status of the site. For sites with outline planning permission, permission in principle, allocated in a development plan or identified on a brownfield register, where clear evidence is required to demonstrate that housing completions will begin on site within 5 years, this evidence may include:

  • any progress being made towards the submission of an application;
  • any progress with site assessment work; and
  • any relevant information about site viability, ownership constraints or infrastructure provision.

For example:

  • a statement of common ground between the local planning authority and the site developer(s) which confirms the developers’ delivery intentions and anticipated start and build-out rates.
  • a hybrid planning permission for large sites which links to a planning performance agreement that sets out the timescale for conclusion of reserved matters applications and discharge of conditions.

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How should buffers be added to the 5 year housing requirement?

To ensure that there is a realistic prospect of achieving the planned level of housing supply, the strategic policy-making authority should bring forward additional sites from later in the plan period, over and above the level indicated by the strategic policy requirement, and any shortfall, or where applicable the local housing need figure. These sites will provide additional flexibility and more certainty that authorities will be able to demonstrate a sufficient supply of deliverable sites against the housing requirement.

A buffer should be added to the housing requirement over the plan period, before adding the relevant annual requirement. Buffers are not cumulative, meaning that an authority should add one of the following, depending on circumstances:

  • the minimum buffer for all authorities, necessary to apply ensure choice and competition in the market, where they are not seeking to confirm a 5 year land supply (and where there delivery of housing over the previous 3 years, has not fallen below 85% of the requirement) is 5%;

  • the buffer for authorities seeking to confirm a 5 year land supply, through an annual position statement or recently adopted plan (and where delivery of housing over the previous 3 years, has not fallen below 85%) is 10%; and

  • the buffer for authorities where delivery of housing over the previous 3 years, has fallen below 85% of the requirement, is 20%

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When should an authority demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply?

In principle an authority will need to be able to demonstrate a 5 year land supply at any point to deal with applications and appeals, unless it is choosing to confirm its 5 year land supply, in which case it need demonstrate it only once per year.

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What happens if an authority cannot demonstrate a 5 year land supply?

If an authority cannot demonstrate a 5 year land supply, plus any relevant buffer, the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply, as set out in footnote 7 of the National Planning Policy Framework, to enable the development of alternative sites to meet the policy requirement.

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What counts as a completion?

For the purposes of calculating 5 year land supply, housing completions include new build dwellings, conversions, changes of use and demolitions and redevelopments. Completions should be net figures, so should offset any demolitions.

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How should authorities count bringing empty homes back into use?

To be included as a contribution to completions it would be for the authority to ensure that empty homes had not already been counted as part of the existing stock of dwellings to avoid double counting.

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How should authorities count student housing completions?

All student accommodation, whether it consists of communal halls of residence or self-contained dwellings, and whether or not it is on campus, can be included towards the housing requirement, based on the amount of accommodation it releases in the housing market. Local authorities should take steps to avoid double-counting.

To establish the amount of accommodation released in the housing market, authorities should base calculations on the average number of students living in student only households, using the published census data. This should be applied to both communal establishments and to multi bedroom self-contained student flats. Studio flats in mixed developments designed for students, graduates or young professionals should be counted as individual completions. A studio flat is a one-room apartment with kitchen facilities and a separate bathroom that fully functions as an independent dwelling.

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How should authorities count older people’s housing completions?

Local planning authorities will need to count housing provided for older people, including residential institutions in Use Class C2, against their housing requirement. For residential institutions, to establish the amount of accommodation released in the housing market, authorities should base calculations on the average number of adults living in households, using the published census data.

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How can past shortfalls in housing completions against planned requirements be addressed?

Where shortfalls in housing completions against planned requirements have been identified, strategic policy-making authorities may consider what factors might have led to this and whether there are any measures that the authority can take, either alone or jointly with other authorities, which may counter the trend.

Where relevant, strategic policy-makers will need to consider the recommendations from any action plans prepared as a result of past under-delivery, as confirmed by the housing delivery test.

The level of deficit or shortfall will need to be calculated from the base date of the adopted plan and should be added to the plan requirements for the next 5 year period (the Sedgefield approach). If a strategic policy-making authority wishes to deal with past under delivery over a longer period, then a case may be made as part of the plan-making and examination process rather than on a case by case basis on appeal.

Where strategic policy-making authorities are unable to address past shortfalls over a 5 year period due to their scale, they may need to reconsider their approach to bringing land forward and the assumptions which they make. For example, by considering developers’ past performance on delivery; reducing the length of time a permission is valid; re-prioritising reserve sites which are ‘ready to go’; delivering development directly or through arms’ length organisation; or sub-dividing major sites where appropriate, and where it can be demonstrated that this would not be detrimental to the quality or deliverability of a scheme.

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How can past over-supply of housing completions against planned requirements be addressed?

Where areas deliver more completions than required, the additional supply can be used to offset any shortfalls against requirements from previous years.

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How will areas with joint plans be monitored for the purposes of a 5 year land supply?

Areas which have or are involved in the production of joint plans have the option to monitor their 5 year land supply and have the Housing Delivery Test applied over the whole of the joint planning area or on a single authority basis. The approach to using individual or combined housing requirement figures will be established through the plan-making process and will need to be set out in the strategic policies.

Where the 5 year land supply is to be measured on a single authority basis, annual housing requirement figures for the joint planning area will need to be apportioned to each area in the plan. If the area is monitored jointly, any policy consequences of under-delivery or lack of 5 year land supply will also apply jointly.

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How can authorities review their 5 year land supply annually?

All local planning authorities will need to ensure that they carry out an annual assessment of their 5 year land supply in a robust and timely fashion, based on up-to-date and sound evidence. Where they are seeking to confirm their 5 year housing land supply position once in a given year, their assessment will need to be in the form of an annual position statement.

The examination of development plan documents which allocate housing sites will include consideration of the deliverability of sites to meet a 5 year supply, in a way that cannot be replicated in the course of determining individual applications and appeals where only the applicant’s/appellant’s evidence is likely to be presented to contest an authority’s position.

Local planning authorities may need to develop a range of assumptions and benchmarks to help to inform and test assessments. Assumptions can include lapse/non-implementation rates in permissions, lead-in times and build rates, and these assumptions and yardsticks can be used to test delivery information or can be used where there is no information available from site owners/developers to inform the assessment. Assumptions should be based on clear evidence, consulted upon with stakeholders, including developers, and regularly reviewed and tested against actual performance on comparable sites. Tables of assumptions should be clear and transparent and available as part of assessments.

Evidence of delivery may need to differentiate between types and sizes of developers and of sites, and of type of product. This approach will ensure the assessment of delivery on sites will be as robust as possible.

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What information will annual reviews of 5 year land supply, including annual position statements, need to include?

Assessments need to be realistic and made publicly available in an accessible format as soon as they have been completed. Assessments will be expected to include:

  • for sites with detailed planning permission, details of numbers of homes under construction and completed each year; and where delivery has either exceeded or not progressed as expected, a commentary indicating the reasons for acceleration or delays to commencement on site or effects on build out rates;

  • for small sites, details of their current planning status and record of completions and homes under construction by site;

  • for sites with outline consent or allocated in adopted plans (or with permission in principle identified on Part 2 of brownfield land registers, and where included in the 5 year housing land supply), information and clear evidence that there will be housing completions on site within 5 years, including current planning status, timescales and progress towards detailed permission;

  • permissions granted for windfall development by year and how this compares with the windfall allowance;

  • details of demolitions and planned demolitions which will have an impact on net completions;

  • total net completions from the plan base date by year (broken down into types of development e.g. affordable housing); and

  • the 5 year land supply calculation clearly indicating buffers and shortfalls and the number of years of supply.

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How can local authorities demonstrate that they have a confirmed 5 year land supply as part of the plan examination?

The National Planning Policy Framework gives local planning authorities the opportunity to demonstrate a confirmed 5 year supply of specific deliverable housing sites. This needs to be done initially through the plan examination process, and may then be refreshed annually following adoption (provided the plan remains up to date), through the preparation of an Annual Position Statement. In both these circumstances, it will only be possible to establish a confirmed 5 year supply if an appropriate buffer has been applied and the authority’s assessment of its supply has been tested sufficiently through the examination or Annual Position Statement processes.

In order to ensure that the 5 year land supply is sufficiently flexible and robust to be demonstrated once in a given year, a minimum 10% buffer should be added to the housing requirement to account for fluctuations in the market over the year. Where the Housing Delivery Test indicates that delivery has fallen below 85% of the requirement, a 20% buffer should be added instead.

If strategic policy-makers choose to confirm their 5 year supply under paragraph 74 of the NPPF through the examination of a plan, they will need to indicate that they are seeking to do so at Regulation 19 stage, and will need to ensure they have carried out a sufficiently robust assessment of the deliverability of sites. The Inspector’s report will provide recommendations in relation to the land supply and will enable the authority, where the authority accepts the recommendations, to confirm that they have demonstrated a 5 year land supply in a recently adopted plan.

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How is 5 year land supply confirmed through an annual position statement?

Where a local planning authority subsequently wishes to confirm their 5 year land supply position through an annual position statement, they will need to advise the Planning Inspectorate of their intention to do so by 1 April each year. To ensure the robustness of the assessment of the deliverability of sites, the local planning authority should carry out an engagement process to inform the preparation of the annual position statement. The local planning authority can then submit their annual position statement to the Planning Inspectorate for review by 31 July of the same year.

When assessing an annual position statement, the Planning Inspectorate will carry out a 2 stage assessment. First, they will consider whether the correct process has been followed (i.e. whether a 5 year supply has been confirmed initially through an up to date plan and whether satisfactory stakeholder engagement has been carried out). Second, they will look at whether the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites, with an appropriate buffer, at the base date of the assessment (i.e. 1 April in the relevant year).

The Planning Inspector’s assessment will be made on the basis of the written material provided by the authority and the Planning Inspector will not refer back to the local planning authority or any other stakeholders to seek further information or to enter into dialogue about sites. It is therefore important that the authority has carried out a robust stakeholder engagement process and that adequate information is provided about disputed sites. Provided the correct process has been followed and sufficient information has been provided about any disputed sites, the Planning Inspectorate will issue their recommendation in October of the same year, confirming, if appropriate, the housing land supply until the following October.

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What engagement should the authority undertake to prepare an annual position statement?

All local planning authorities will need to engage with stakeholders who have an impact on the delivery of sites. The aim is to provide robust challenge and ultimately seek as much agreement as possible, so that the authority can reach a reasoned conclusion on the potential delivery on sites which contribute to the 5 year land supply. Those authorities who are seeking to demonstrate a confirmed 5 year land supply will need to produce an engagement statement and submit this to the Planning Inspectorate, including:

  • an overview of the process of engagement with site owners/applicants, developers and other stakeholders and a schedule of site based data resulting from this;

  • specific identification of any disputed sites where consensus on likely delivery has not been reached, including sufficient evidence in support of and opposition to the disputed site(s) to allow a Planning Inspector to reach a reasoned conclusion; as well as an indication of the impact of any disputed sites on the number of years of supply;

  • the conclusions which have been reached on each site by the local planning authority in consideration of the outcome of stakeholder engagement;

  • the conclusions which have been reached about the overall 5 year land supply position.

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Who should the authority engage with?

It is for the local planning authority to set out their general approach to engagement in their Statement of Community Involvement and to decide which stakeholders to involve. However, it should include any specific consultation bodies the authority consider may have an interest, any general consultation bodies the authority consider are appropriate, and any residents or other persons carrying on business in the area from which the authority consider it appropriate to invite representations from, such as:

  • small and large developers;
  • land promoters;
  • private and public land owners;
  • infrastructure providers (such as utility providers, highways, etc);
  • upper tier authorities (county councils) in two-tier areas;
  • neighbouring authorities with adjourning or cross-boundary sites.

Local planning authorities may wish to set up an assessment and delivery group which could contribute towards Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessments, annual 5 year land supply assessments and Housing Delivery Test action plans for the delivery of housing. Delivery groups can assist authorities to not only identify any delivery issues but also help to find solutions to address them.

The Planning Inspectorate will publish on their website a list of local authorities who have notified them of their intention to seek confirmation of their 5 year housing land supply. However, interested parties who wish to be involved in the process should contact the local planning authority direct.

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What happens where there is disagreement about sites?

All local planning authorities should seek as much agreement as possible on the potential level of delivery on sites which contribute to the 5 year land supply. For those seeking to demonstrate a confirmed 5 year land supply, where agreement on delivery of a particular site has not been reached through the engagement process, the Planning Inspectorate will consider the evidence provided by both the local authority and stakeholders in the engagement statement and annual position statement and make recommendations about likely site delivery in relation to those sites in dispute. The Planning Inspectorate will only consider the deliverability of disputed sites in relation to demonstrating a 5 year supply (with the appropriate buffer).

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What can an authority do once the Planning Inspectorate has reached a conclusion and provided recommendations?

When considering an annual position statement, the Planning Inspectorate will assess whether the evidence provided by the local authority is sufficient to demonstrate that there is a 5 year land supply, including the appropriate buffer. If this is the case, the Planning Inspectorate will then recommend that the authority can confirm that they will have a 5 year land supply for one year. This will be a material consideration in the determination of planning appeals.

The local planning authority will need to publish their draft annual position statement, the recommendations of the Planning Inspectorate and their decision on the recommendations indicating whether they are in a position to confirm their 5 year land supply position for a one year period.

As set out in footnote 38 of the National Planning Policy Framework, for plans adopted between 1 May and 31 October, the confirmed status of the 5 year land supply will remain in place until 31 October of the following year. For Plans adopted between November and 30 April, the confirmed status will remain in place until 31 October of that year.

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Housing Delivery Test

How is the Housing Delivery Test calculated?

The method for calculating the Housing Delivery Test measurement is set out in the Housing Delivery Test measurement rule book.

The Rule Book should be read in conjunction with this guidance on the Housing Delivery Test.

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When will the Housing Delivery Test results be published?

The Secretary of State will publish the Housing Delivery Test results annually in November.

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What organisations does the Housing Delivery Test apply to?

It applies to local planning authorities in a plan-making authority area: non-metropolitan districts, development corporations with plan-making and decision-making powers, metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs. The Housing Delivery Test does not apply to National Park Authorities, the Broads Authority and development corporations without (or not exercising) both plan-making and decision-making functions.

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Which delivery years does the Housing Delivery Test apply to?

The Housing Delivery Test, published in the November of any given year, provides a measure based on the preceding 3 financial years.

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What happens in areas with stepped requirements?

Where the adopted housing requirement is stepped, these stepped requirements will be used in the Housing Delivery Test in place of annual average requirement figures. A stepped requirement allows authorities to reflect significant changes in the level of housing expected to be delivered across the plan period.

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What happens in areas with requirements set out as a range?

Where plan makers have successfully argued through plan making and examination for a requirement set out as a range, the Housing Delivery Test will measure authorities against the lower end of the range.

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Does the Housing Delivery Test include credit for delivering communal accommodation?

Delivery of communal accommodation, including student accommodation and other communal accommodation, can count towards the Housing Delivery Test. Self-contained dwellings are included in the National Statistic for net additional dwellings. Communal accommodation will be accounted for in the Housing Delivery Test by applying adjustments in the form of 2 nationally set ratios. These are based on England Census data. The ratios for both net student and net other communal accommodation are found in the Housing Delivery Test rule book.

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What happens if the identified housing requirement is not delivered?

If delivery of housing falls below the housing requirement, then certain policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework will apply, with immediate effect from publication of the Housing Delivery Test results, depending on the level of delivery:

  • the publication of an action plan if housing delivery falls below 95%;
  • a 20% buffer on a local planning authority’s 5-year land supply if housing delivery falls below 85%; and
  • the presumption in favour of sustainable development if housing delivery falls below 75%, once transitional arrangements have ended.

The consequences will continue to apply until the subsequent Housing Delivery Test results are published, or a new housing requirement is adopted. The relevant consequence for any under-delivery will then be applied. Should delivery exceed 95%, no consequences will apply. Where a new housing requirement is adopted, the Housing Delivery Test calculation will be run using these new targets and any consequences for under-delivery will be applied.

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How will areas with joint plans be monitored for the purposes of the Housing Delivery Test?

Areas which have or are involved in the production of joint plans will have the option to monitor their Housing Delivery Test over the whole of the joint planning area or on a single authority basis. This will be established through the plan making process and the approach will need to be set out in the plan. For joint plans less than 5 years old in November 2018, the authority will need to notify MHCLG of their preference.

Where the Housing Delivery Test is to be measured on a single authority basis, annual housing requirement figures for the joint planning area will need to be apportioned to each area in the plan.

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How will Housing Delivery Test consequences apply to areas with a joint plan?

Housing Delivery Test consequences will apply to all local planning authorities with a joint plan collectively if the housing figure used to measure against the delivery test is the joint housing requirement. The consequences will apply individually if the housing figure used is the apportioned one.

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How will Housing Delivery Test consequences apply to areas covered by a Spatial Development Strategy (SDS)?

Local planning authorities covered by a Spatial Development Strategy will be monitored against their requirement as set out in the individual borough or district plan for the purposes of the Housing Delivery Test, where this requirement is less than 5 years old. Housing Delivery Test consequences will therefore apply to local planning authorities covered by a spatial development strategy individually. The Housing Delivery Test rule book sets out the circumstances for monitoring where the requirement is over 5 years old, or there is no individual borough or district plan.

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When and for how long does the Housing Delivery Test indicate the 20% land supply buffer should apply?

For local planning authorities where delivery is under 85% of their identified housing requirement, a 20% buffer will be added to their housing land supply, with immediate effect from publication of the Housing Delivery Test results, to ensure a realistic prospect of achieving the planned housing requirement.

The 20% buffer will continue to apply until subsequent Housing Delivery Test results show that delivery exceeds 85% of the local planning authority’s identified housing requirement.

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At what level of delivery does the presumption in favour of sustainable development apply?

Where a plan-making authority’s delivery rate falls below the number of homes required then the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply as follows:

  • from the day following the publication of the 2018 Housing Delivery Test result, where housing delivery falls below 25%;

  • from the day following the publication of the 2019 Housing Delivery Test result where housing delivery falls below 45%;

  • from the day following the publication of the 2020 Housing Delivery Test result, where housing delivery falls below 75%.

The presumption in favour of sustainable development will continue to apply until the subsequent Housing Delivery Test results are published, or a new housing requirement is adopted. The relevant consequence for any under-delivery will then be applied.

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What is the Housing Delivery Test action plan?

The action plan is produced by the local planning authority where delivery is below 95% of their housing requirement. It will identify the reasons for under-delivery, explore ways to reduce the risk of further under-delivery and set out measures the authority intends to take to improve levels of delivery.

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Who can produce an action plan?

Local planning authorities, in collaboration with key stakeholders, are expected to produce the action plan. This will apply for each year of under-delivery.

Any area may wish to produce an action plan as a matter of good practice or to identify processes to exceed housing requirements and support delivery. This could include local planning authorities where delivery meets, or exceeds, 95% of their housing requirement. In areas not measured by the Housing Delivery Test, such as National Park Authorities, the Broads Authority and development corporations without (or which do not exercise) both plan-making and decision-making functions, the use of an action plan is encouraged where appropriate to help identify any causes of under-delivery and actions to address these.

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Who can be involved in the creation of the action plan?

The local planning authority is responsible for producing the action plan, involving relevant stakeholders in the process. It is for the local planning authority to decide which stakeholders to involve, although representatives of those with an impact on the rate of delivery should be included, such as:

  • small and large developers;
  • land promoters;
  • private and public land owners;
  • infrastructure providers (such as utility providers, highways, etc);
  • upper tier authorities (county councils) in two-tier areas;
  • neighbouring authorities with adjoining or cross-boundary sites.

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What aspects could local planning authorities review as part of the action plan?

The local planning authority may wish to include an analysis of under-delivery considering:

  • barriers to early commencement after planning permission is granted and whether such sites are delivered within permitted timescales;

  • barriers to delivery on sites identified as part of the 5 year land supply (including land banking, scheme viability, affordable housing requirements, pre-commencement conditions, lengthy section 106 negotiations, infrastructure and utilities provision, involvement of statutory consultees etc.);

  • whether sufficient planning permissions are being granted and whether they are determined within statutory time limits;

  • whether the mix of sites identified is proving effective in delivering at the anticipated rate.

  • whether proactive pre-planning application discussions are taking place to speed up determination periods;

  • the level of ongoing engagement with key stakeholders (for example, landowners, developers, utility providers and statutory consultees), to identify more land and encourage an increased pace of delivery;

  • whether issues, such as infrastructure or transport for example, could be addressed at a strategic level - within the authority, but also with neighbouring and upper tier authorities where applicable;

  • the level of ongoing engagement with key stakeholders (for example, landowners, developers, utility providers and statutory consultees), to identify more land and encourage an increased pace of delivery;

  • whether issues, such as infrastructure or transport for example, could be addressed at a strategic level - within the authority, but also with neighbouring and upper tier authorities where applicable;

  • whether proactive pre-planning application discussions are taking place to speed up determination periods;

  • whether the mix of sites identified is proving effective in delivering at the anticipated rate.

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What actions could local planning authorities consider as part of the action plan?

Actions to boost delivery could include:

  • revisiting the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) / Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) to identify sites potentially suitable and available for housing development, including public sector land and brownfield land;

  • working with developers on the number of houses on site, including whether sites can be subdivided;

  • offering more pre-application discussions to ensure issues are addressed early;

  • consider the use of Planning Performance Agreements;

  • carrying out a new Call for Sites, as part of plan revision;

  • revising site allocation policies in the development plan, revising existing policies acting as a barrier to delivery, setting out new policies aimed at increasing delivery, or accelerating production of an emerging plan incorporating such policies;

  • reviewing the impact of any existing Article 4 directions for change of use from non-residential uses to residential use;

  • engaging regularly with key stakeholders to obtain up-to-date information on build out of current sites, identify any barriers, and discuss how these can be addressed;

  • establishing whether certain applications can be prioritised, conditions simplified or their discharge phased on approved sites, and standardised conditions reviewed;

  • ensuring evidence on a particular site is informed by an understanding of viability;

  • considering compulsory purchase powers to unlock suitable housing sites;

  • using Brownfield Registers to grant permission in principle to previously developed land;

  • encouraging the development of small sites and higher site densities.

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When will the action plan be implemented?

To ensure the document is as useful as possible, local planning authorities should publish an action plan within 6 months of publication of the Housing Delivery Test result.

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Will an action plan require formal public consultation?

The action plan will work best as a transparent, publicly accessible document. The decision about whether to consult on an action plan is for the local planning authority. Local planning authorities should be mindful of the need to both produce and implement the document’s proposals in a timely fashion.

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How could the action plan be monitored?

Responsibility for creating the action plan lies with the local planning authority, as does monitoring of the action plan. However, the action plan is a collaborative process between various stakeholders, and all stakeholders have a responsibility to deliver the action plan.

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Published 6 March 2014
Last updated 13 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added new sections 'Housing delivery: 5 year land supply' and 'Housing Delivery Test' and removed section 'Methodology – Stage 5: Final evidence base'
  2. First published.