Timed Out?


Timed Out?

A projection of future local plan coverage in 2025 under prevailing policy conditions

21 Jul 2023
As Government finds itself facing growing criticism from all sides on its housing delivery, new research by planning and development consultancy Lichfields, commissioned by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF), has found that without immediate action from the Government, over 75% of LPAs will have an out-of-date plan for housing delivery by the end of 2025.
Local plans are key to helping local communities shape their area and ensure that houses are built at the right time and in the right places, and a succinct, aspirational and up-to-date local plan sets the basis for growth. An out-of-date local plan causes uncertainty for councils, communities and developers while threatening to overwhelm already struggling LPAs.
The plan-led approach is the cornerstone of the planning system, but the research suggests that the Government’s reforms are leading to the opposite of this. Currently 67% of local plans are out of date (over five years old) and this will have risen to over 75% in less than two years. By the end 2025, 38% of LPAs will have a local plan that is more than 10 years old.  Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the annual national housing need will be in local areas where plans were adopted over 7 years ago.
The research also found that by the end of 2025, a large regional disparity will emerge in local plans, with only 9% of LPAs in the South West having an up-to-date local plan. In fact, in four regions, the West Midlands, South West, North West and South East, over 40% of local plans will be more than 10 years old. Additionally, as pressure grows on politicians to better address issues with our Green Belt, the research shows that by the end of 2025, in local areas where 90% of the land is covered by Green Belt and / or other national designations, over 48% of local plans will be more than 10 years old.
This comes at a time when government reforms to planning and the scrapping of housing targets are at the forefront of the political agenda. Previously, Lichfields, working with the Land Promoters and Developers Federation and Home Builders Federation, calculated that 33 councils have halted or cut their housebuilding plans in the past two years as a result of government reforms, leaving England with a shortfall of between 50,000 and 100,000 new homes over the next five years.
Everybody believes in the importance of the plan led system, but this new research shows that our existing position will only worsen ahead of and post a general election under the Government’s proposed reforms.  We need immediate action. The planning system needs to respond positively and quickly to planning applications, especially where it will enable affordable housing delivery, boost SME housebuilder activity and ensure that our local economies deliver sufficient employment space, all of which will aid economic growth.

This research highlights the potential for a further collapse in housebuilding which will leave the nation hopelessly unable to meet its housing needs, unfairly hindering the next generation’s ability to get onto the housing ladder. 

Paul Brocklehurst, Chairman of the LPDF

Our projection of future plan coverage reinforces the recent findings of the House of Commons Levelling Up Select Committee and shows the negative impact of planning policy uncertainty since 2020. A plan-led system without up-to-date local plans is bound for failure. Government needs to jump start efforts and give local planning authorities and developers the confidence there is a solid platform on which local areas can make the tough decisions needed to plan positively for the housing and economic development the country needs.

Matthew Spry, Senior Director