New data reveals Local Authorities falling behind on housing targets

Picture of David Heasman

David Heasman
February 26, 2020
Read time: minute(s)

The Government has released new housing delivery data for 2019. 

Some local authorities have got a lot better. Some a lot worse.

And for those falling most seriously behind, there’s a new consequence – one that could drastically benefit developers in those areas.

First, let’s look into how local planning authorities did on their housing targets in 2019:

A quick note on how the data is measured

The housing delivery test looks at the housing targets for each authority in England over the past three years, and compares that to the housing built in those three years. 

I thought that was worth mentioning because it can get a bit confusing. 

See, the housing delivery test is a measure of how housing was built over the past three years. But the reason it was put in place was to hold local authorities accountable over their five-year housing land supply. 

So… like I said, confusing. 

If you want to find out more about how it all works, read the government’s guidance on the matter here


So how does it look? 

Overall the picture is pretty good. 

In 2019, English local authorities were asked to deliver 227,000 new homes, and they delivered more than 247,000 homes – 109% of the target.

However new housing delivered still falls short of the much-discussed target of 300,000 new homes a year.

So, there’s still some work to do.


Five key insights from the 2019 housing data

We've got more housing. But is it enough?

Each local authority is given a unique housing target, based on household projections and local housing need.

On average in 2019, authorities were overperforming at 117% of their individual targets, rising from 112% in 2018.

However, over a third (34%) of authorities missed their targets.


Are those houses in the right areas?

England might be building more houses but, from the heatmap, it's clear that new housing is still falling short in areas where people most want to live – and where prices are highest.

Kent and the commuter belt are increasingly red on the heatmap compared with 2018. For instance, authorities such as Gravesham, Medway, and Sevenoaks aren’t hitting their new housing targets.

Compared with 2018:

  • Gravesham improved slightly – going from 64% to 75%
  • Sevenoaks saw a drop – falling from 94% to 71%
  • Medway continued to do badly – dropping from 47% to 46%

Regionally, the North is still continuing to overdeliver – with Northumberland, Carlisle, and Eden all delivering above 200% on their housing targets.

East of England has seen a mild improvement from 2018, with Mid Suffolk and Waveney going from 81% and 72% respectively to 99% and 89% in 2019.


Here are the local authorities most overdelivering on their targets

It’s impossible to say ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as it’s all relative, but here are the authorities highest above their targets for 2019.

(As a note: We've excluding Redditch, which is at 55,076% of their target. That skewed the results pretty substantially, but we’re definitely going to look into why that’s the case, and how they did it).

Local Authority

2018 Measurement

2019 Measurement







Cheshire West and Chester



Redcar and Cleveland


















Ribble Valley




Here are the local authorities falling furthest short of their targets

These are the authorities that are the furthest from hitting their housing targets over the past three years.

Local Authority

2018 Measurement

2019 Measurement

City of London












Three Rivers



New Forest






North Hertfordshire













  1. There are consequences for those LAs not hitting their targets

  3. (including a new one for the worst performers)

Of the 326 local authorities in our dataset, 218 (67%) have met their targets and will face no consequence. Those are the good eggs.

But according to paragraph 215 of the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), authorities face consequences if they aren’t building enough housing.


If they are under 95% of their targets –

They have to come up with an action plan detailing why they're under-delivering, explore ways to reduce the risk of further under-delivery, and also set out measures on how they'll improve delivery.

This applies to 26 authorities (8%).


If they are under 85% of their targets –

They have to produce an action plan and provide a 20% extra buffer to the 5-year land supply they've allocated towards housing.

This applies to 74 authorities (27%).


If they are under 45% of their targets –

Authorities have to provide an action plan and provide a buffer and the "application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply."

This applies to 8 authorities (2.5%).

Note: This cutoff point will rise to 75% next year.

This last one is the new one – the "application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development" – is the new one. And it could be pretty interesting for developers in those areas. 

What exactly will it mean for developers? Impossible to say at this stage. It’s all uncharted territory at this stage, so how these consequences will be enforced remains to be seen.

But it’s definitely something to keep an eye on...

Will It Make A Difference?

This is the second year the Housing Delivery Test has been running, and overall the country is getting better at delivering houses. But, despite that, over a third of authorities are still not hitting their targets. 

The introduction of the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” might provide an added incentive for those authorities falling the furthest behind their targets. And as this will apply to all authorities just 75% under their target from next year, it could be a pretty powerful incentive.

But will it make a difference? That remains to be seen. After all that, the Housing Delivery Test ignores the specific challenges each authority faces, such as interest rates and the often-conflicting relationship between communities, developers, and planners.

But either way, I’m interested to see what happens next year.


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Notes on the data

This is government data. To see how it's measured check the Government's Housing Delivery Test Technical Note. Each measurement result was rounded to the nearest 1%.

Some authorities were measured jointly:

 - Broadland, Norwich, and South Norfolk

 - Christchurch and East Dorset

 - Lincoln, North Kesteven, and West Lindsey

 - North Devon, and Torridge

 - West Dorset, and Westmouth and Portland

 - Worscester, Malvern Hills, and Wychavon

 - Plymouth, South Hams, and West Devon

London Legacy Development Corporation, Isles of Scilly, and Barrow-in-Furness were removed from this dataset. The latter two because they have zero housing requirements due to negative population growth.

Some authority have re-organised themselves, either with a new name and/or new boundaries. To see how these were measured in the government data, check out the government's guidance on this matter.