Liberal Democrat leaders criticise unrealistic government housing targets

Liberal Democrat leaders from Watford and Three Rivers are calling on the government to review the way that housing targets are set. The call comes after the results of the Housing Delivery Test were revealed to show that Watford and Three Rivers delivered just 48% and 54 per cent of their housing targets for the years 2017 – 2020 respectively.

Authorities which don’t meet their targets face government sanctions to try and get more development in those areas. Councils delivering under 95 per cent of their target have to produce an action plan showing how they intend to boost delivery. Those under 85 per cent must also have a 20 per cent buffer on their housing land supply, while authorities under 75 per cent face a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’. Watford and Three Rivers both now face a presumption in favour of sustainable delivery.

The presumption means that local authorities should grant planning permission unless a site is protected under national planning rules or the negative impact of approving a development outweighs the benefits.

Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said “I think most residents in Watford will be staggered to learn that the Conservative government believes Watford should have been building twice as many new homes in the last few years. They are piling on the pressure in towns like Watford. So many councils that are close to the M25 are being told they must ‘build, build, build’ or face penalties from the government.

“We all know that new homes are needed but they must come with the services residents need so that they are sustainable and people living there have a good quality of life. Taking away our ability to decide our own future, and insisting we build at all costs, is simply unfair.”

Leader of Three Rivers Council, Sarah Nelmes, said “Being a Green Belt authority, the sanctions mean very little changes, regarding planning committee decision making. The only real way we can increase housing delivery is to adopt a new Local Plan releasing large sites from the Green Belt.

“Before the government moved the goalposts we consistently over delivered on our targets; between 2001 and 2018 we delivered 3520 homes ahead of the target of 3060. But the targets imposed on us now are just unrealistic. It is hardly surprising that the majority of local authorities failing to meet their targets are in the south of England. The government need to look at the distribution of housebuilding and deliver their promise to ‘level up’ cities and towns in the North.”

Housing Delivery Test: Hertfordshire stats

Housing Delivery Test: Hertfordshire stats
Local authority Number of homes required 2017-20 Number of homes delivered 2017-20 Housing Delivery Test 2020 measurement Housing Delivery Test 2020 consequence
Broxbourne 1271 945 74% Presumption
Dacorum 1887 1685 89% Action plan
East Herts 2395 2499 104% None
Hertsmere 1684 1719 102% None
North Herts 2597 936 36% Presumption
St Albans 2372 1493 63% Presumption
Stevenage 1094 702 64% Presumption
Three Rivers 1619 872 54% Presumption
Watford 1837 874 48% Presumption
Welwyn Hatfield 2284 1450 63% Presumption