New homes in Kent: Why aren't they delivering?

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Shannon Lynn
January 25, 2023
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We recently published our South East Regional Market Report, using demographic, planning, and local market data to identify areas of opportunity for property developers. 

And Kent threw up some interesting stats – particularly in terms of housing delivery. 

So, we thought we’d dig a bit deeper and take a look at what exactly is limiting the supply of new homes in the county – and what this could mean for Kent’s housing market in the future.

First, though, let’s take a closer look at the housing target delivery data for Kent. 


Kent’s Housing Target Delivery results

2021’s Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results paint a pretty bleak picture of housing target delivery in Kent. 

10 out of 13 of Kent’s local planning authorities (LPAs) didn’t hit their housing targets – meaning only three were delivering enough new homes to satisfy the local housing need. 

In fact, four LPAs in Kent saw steep drops in their housing delivery compared to five years ago. From 2017 to 2021, the amount of new housing fell by 31% in Ashford, 60% in Tonbridge and Malling, 39% in Canterbury, and 48% in Dartford. 

House prices in the area make it even clearer that delivery is not aligning with the required demand. From 2017-2021, prices have risen between 58 and 85% – indicating that supply-side constraints are heating up the local market. 

For a look at how local authorities are performing across the South East, download our regional report here. 

Why is Kent not delivering new homes? 

There are a number of reasons why local authorities in Kent aren’t meeting their housing delivery targets – namely due to constrained land and Local Plans not being kept up to date. 

We’ll take a look at all these factors in a bit more detail below. 


  • Green Belt, AONB, and other restricted land availability

Every local authority in Kent contains Green Belt land. Over 72,000 hectares of it to be precise. Or 19% of Kent’s total land area.

When we add in national parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) this figure rises to 179,000 hectares of land – 48% of Kent’s land area. 

Previously it was difficult, but not impossible, to get planning permission on the Green Belt. However, the recently proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) would make it much harder for developments to be pushed through on protected land. 

This means that there’s close to 50% of land in Kent that is essentially out of bounds to developers. In turn, this makes competition for unconstrained land fierce – and drives up prices for house buyers. 


  • Nutrient neutrality rules

On top of the constraints listed above, the introduction of nutrient neutrality rules in more areas across the UK means that some LPAs in Kent are up against further challenges to development. 


The heatmap shows which LPAs fall under nutrient neutrality rules and the percentage of land impacted. Canterbury has the highest percentage of affected land at 73.3%, followed by Ashford at 41.8%, and Folkestone and Hythe at 29.8%. 

Combined, all of Kent’s LPAs have over 60,000 hectares of land with nutrient neutrality rules in place – that’s 28% of their total land area. 

Until there is a breakthrough on nutrient neutrality, many potential developments will remain stuck in the planning system. It will be interesting to see how nutrient neutrality restrictions will impact the housing delivery results for the LPAs impacted. Watch this space. 


  • Out-of-date Local Plans

Local Plans are put in place to help identify the housing need in each LPA and provide a clear route for how this can be achieved. However, they only work effectively if they’re kept up to date. 

Currently, out of Kent’s 13 LPAs, only three have up-to-date Local Plans. 

Out of the remaining LPAs: three are out-of-date, six have emerging policies in place, and Medway has stopped work on their Local Plan. 

Without a clear direction, it makes it harder to know where development can take place and increases the chance of planning application refusals being overturned at appeal. 


What does this mean for the future of Kent’s housing market? 

In light of all the constraints and challenges, Kent’s housing market will face increasing pressure as demand goes up. 

Maidstone, Ashford, Canterbury, and Swale saw double-digit percentage growth in population over the past ten years.

And the population of Kent is expected to keep rising – Folkestone and Hyde, Tonbridge and Malling, Canterbury, Dartford, and Dover are all projected to see population growth above 10% between 2021 and 2031.

LPAs and developers will have to work together to find a way to deliver much-needed housing in the area. 


Some parts of Kent are seeing a steady flow of developments come through as a result of permitted development rights (PDR), 9% of new dwellings in Maidstone were built due to PDR. 

Although some may view this as a symptom of a broken planning system, PDR is allowing new homes to be built. And as long as they’re being built to a high standard, they may provide an opportunity for developers to keep building new housing despite the constraints they are up against. 

Want access to more regional insights? 

Download our South East Regional Market report and unlock key insights for local authorities across the region, including:

  • Demographic data
  • Planning applications and appeals
  • New-build premiums

Download the report