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Planning deregulation reduces local authorities’ ability to secure affordable homes as homelessness rises

Planning deregulation reduces local authorities’ ability to secure affordable homes as homelessness rises

A report published today by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) – (10 May) researched and written by the TCPA - finds that a lack of investment in genuine affordable housing alongside deregulation of planning is reducing local authorities’ ability to secure the homes the nation needs.

The research shines a stark spotlight on the desperate housing crisis experienced across the country with 98% of councils identifying their need for affordable housing as either severe or moderate. Over two thirds of councils in England state that statutory homelessness levels have increased in their local area in the past 12 months and 57% state that rough sleeping has also increased during this period.

To create more homes the government has deregulated planning by introducing measures to convert commercial buildings into homes through permitted development (this requires a prior approval process but removes the need for the developers to make a full planning application to the local authority). While permitted development has created more housing units, the research reveals that this is not enabling councils to secure much needed affordable housing nor is it helping them deal with the rising tide of homelessness.

Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

“We are not providing anywhere near enough genuinely affordable homes and homelessness is rising. Our latest research highlights that councils want to provide more affordable housing for their local communities, but their ability to do so is being undermined by planning deregulation. 

Relaxing permitted development has led to tens of thousands of new homes being created without having to get full planning permission - for example through the conversion of commercial buildings into homes - and this means that councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer, and little or no thought is given to the most basic issues, such as where children can play or whether there are enough doctors’ surgeries in the area.”

“Changing the use of a commercial building into homes can be a sustainable use of assets meeting local housing need. However, the research reveals that permitted development can have significant long-term, negative consequences for councils and communities. We are calling on the government to reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.”

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

Decent housing in a well-planned environment provides a foundation for helping people to maximise their contribution to society, and to create areas that are economically prosperous. What our report highlights is the extent to which insecure tenancy arrangements in the private rented sector are directly contributing to the rise in homelessness. We need local councils to act as ‘market disruptors’; bringing stability and capacity to the social rented sector which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping.

“Investment in high quality social housing can also save public funds, such as through reducing poor physical and mental health outcomes that are currently experienced by those living in an unstable private rented sector or those in temporary accommodation.

“The government must be bold and ambitious in challenging the shortfall of housing for those in the most need in society. As part of this, it must help councils return to their historic role as a provider of homes – recognising that evidence clearly suggests that we cannot rely on the private sector alone to meet the shortfall of housing supply.”

The report, ‘Delivering affordable homes in a changing world: Ensuring councils can meet local housing need’, has been released to coincide with the closing date of the government’s consultation on the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework.  The report sets out 10 recommendations aimed at increasing the provision of high-quality social and affordable housing, tackling homelessness, and boosting our construction skills by unlocking the potential of local authority house building and partnership delivery.

The new report is available to order here. Alternatively, you can download a free online version by clicking on the button below. 


Download Research (pdf)


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. For more information on the TCPA’s work on affordable housing see https://www.tcpa.org.uk/Pages/Category/affordablehousing


  1. 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. Contact Mo Baines, Head of Communication and Coordination mbaines@apse.org.uk mobile 07971 84515 to arrange for interview or further information or Matt Ellis, APSE Communications Officer on mellis@apse.org.uk tel: 0161 772 1810 www.apse.org.uk


  1. The research by the TCPA for APSE will be launched on the 10th May 2018 in parliament. This is the fourth research project between TCPA and 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  


  1. 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.



Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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