20 February 2018 - In advance of the publication of the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – expected to be launched next week – the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) are calling on government to clarify and strengthen its commitment to delivering affordable housing by amending the definition of affordable housing and the viability test.

For the past four years councils across England have highlighted the negative impact of the viability test on their ability to secure affordable housing. In a new research study by the TCPA and APSE, due for publication in May, 60% of councils said the viability test had hindered their ability to secure affordable housing in their local areas. Around one in ten councils said the viability test helped with the provision of affordable housing and 29% didn't know.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the TCPA, said: 

"There is no doubt that the current planning framework has deprioritised vital policy on affordable housing, climate change, good design and social equity, each of which are essential for building quality places. A key factor which led to this outcome was the introduction of viability testing, which places the needs of developers and land owners above the wider-public interest. The test has spawned a wasteful and costly industry for all parties which has had the net effect of dramatically reducing the delivery of affordable housing.

“The publication of the updated NPPF is a key opportunity for the government to set a new direction for planning, starting with rebalancing the viability test so councils can secure the affordable housing their communities need.”

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE, said:

“Our latest research reveals that 98% of councils have identified the need for affordable homes in their local authorities as severe or moderate. Alongside financial freedoms, councils need a planning system that enables them to deliver more genuinely affordable homes. The government should ensure that the definition of an affordable homes set out in the new NPPF is based on a measure of income and not pegged to an arbitrary proportion of market price.”

The full results of the survey of councils across the UK will be included in a report due to be launched in parliament on the 10th May 2018. This is the fourth housing research report by the TCPA for APSE.


Notes to editors

  1. The Town and Country Planning Association www.tcpa.org.uk (TCPA) is an independent campaigning charity calling for more integrated planning based on the principles of accessibility, sustainability, diversity and community cohesion. The TCPA puts social justice and the environment at the heart of the debate about planning policy, housing and energy supply. We inspire government, industry and campaigners to take a fresh perspective on major issues including climate change and regeneration.
  2. APSE is the Association for Public Service, a not-for-profit organisation working with over 300 councils throughout the UK providing advice, support and research on frontline local government services.
  3. The research is from a study by the TCPA for APSE which will be launched on the 10th May 2018 in parliament. This is the fourth research project by the TCPA for APSE, the three previous research reports are Housing the Nation, Homes for all, and Building homes, creating communities and together they provide a detailed overview of the housing and planning policy changes between 2010 and 2017  https://www.tcpa.org.uk/building-homes-creating-communities
  4. The TCPA conducted an online survey between 01/02/2018 and 16/02/2018. It was sent to all councils in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The survey was sent to local authority chief executives, chief finance officers, chief housing officers, council leaders, economic development committee chairs, finance committee chairs and housing committee chairs. A total of 162 councils responded to the survey, made up of 48% Conservative-controlled councils, 23% Labour-controlled councils and 29% other.
  5. In response to the survey question, ‘Has the viability test as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework helped or hindered your local authority’s ability to secure sufficient social and affordable housing to meet local needs?’, 110 councils in England responded, results as below.
  6. For further information, please contact Jack Mulligan at the TCPA on 07825 707 546 or [email protected].