New reports back a larger role for counties in planning as councils warn over ‘severe’ need for affordable homes

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2018 | 20 June 2018

Two new reports launched today at a national housing conference back a larger role for county councils in planning to help solve the affordability crisis; with nine in ten counties warning they have a ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’ need for affordable homes.

A new study from Catriona Riddell Associates for the County Councils Network (CCN) calls for a re-introduction of strategic planning to closer align planning and infrastructure and to accelerate housing delivery.

And a new report from the Town and Country Planning Association for the CCN, backs a stronger role for counties in planning and closer collaboration between the two tiers of council in county areas, especially in the proposed Statement for Common Ground; giving district councils the capacity to plan for homes over a larger area and the county the ability to plan for infrastructure and service provision.

The report also showcases the entrepreneurial work counties are doing to deliver housing, and recommends extra resource for counties to start building homes.


The TCPA report, which includes a new survey that found nine in ten county councils class their need for affordable housing either ‘severe or moderate’ recommends:

  • A stronger role for counties in planning, with a clearly defined role for county councils in the strategic planning process and better aligning planning and infrastructure with a central role for county councils in the Statement for Common Ground.
  • Government should direct resource to improving this capacity so more counties develop housebuilding initiatives. This comes after more than two-thirds of respondents to the TCPA survey said the biggest barrier to setting up housing companies or joint development ventures was a lack of capacity.
  • Government should introduce new minimum standards so homes cater for elderly and disabled people, due to a national dearth of adequate homes for people with long-term care issues or disabilities.
  • A clear recognition of the role counties can play in solving the housing affordability crisis in the forthcoming Affordable Housing Green Paper and from Homes England.

The TCPA survey illustrates that the housing affordability crisis is a countrywide issue, with 100% of respondents in the North West saying their need for affordable homes is ‘severe’, and two-thirds of counties in the East Midlands and the South West giving the same answer. Download an infographic on the survey responses here.

Further CCN analysis also shows that on average, just one quarter of homes built in counties over the last seven years are affordable houses, compared to 44% in London and 34% in cities and metropolitan boroughs. Less than one quarter of new build homes in the East of England have been affordable in that period, whilst the figure is just one quarter in the East Midlands, and one fifth in Yorkshire.

A further study from planning experts Catriona Riddell Associates argues that government’s proposed planning reforms in the National Planning Policy Framework do not go far enough and suggests government should consider re-introducing strategic planning to accelerate delivery of homes backed by the correct infrastructure.

The report recommends:

  • The introduction of a more formal approach to strategic spatial and infrastructure planning in two tier areas.
  • For government to legislate for statutory joint strategic planning, or statutory strategic infrastructure frameworks (in which local plans can be prepared), which will align housing, infrastructure, and economic priorities. Within these arrangements, there should be joint governance with all local authorities included as equal partners, with the use of joint planning committees wherever possible.

Both reports will be launched at a national housing conference organised by the County Councils Network today.

Cllr Philip Atkins, County Councils Network spokesman for housing, planning, and infrastructure, said:

 “Today’s research reveals counties have strong concerns over the ability of young people to afford their own homes, which stretches the length and breadth of the country; from Cornwall to Cumbria.

“Whilst counties are taking matters into their own hands, their ambitions remain shackled by planning reforms that do not go far enough, especially on planning on a strategic scale. These reports today set out a series of recommendations to enable counties to do more to deliver the homes for people of all ages the country desperately needs; properties of the right tenures and in the right places, backed by the necessary infrastructure to ensure that we build sustainable communities, not just simply houses.”


Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said:

 “The research provides valuable insight into what counties are already achieving under their current powers; sets out examples of leadership by pioneering councils who are unlocking the provision of new housing through partnerships and direct delivery; and gives an indication to government of the skills and capacity that counties already have and what more they can do.

 “Counties are innovating right across the country, making the most of their assets such as land owned by the council or public sector. The study reveals that counties understand that to realise the true value of land they must do more than just maximise sales receipts. They are aware that they must understand the potential for long-term income streams, have a stake in the quality of the development and secure wider social and economic benefits. Ultimately the report demonstrates that counties are an important part of the solution to the national housing crisis.”

 Catriona Riddell, director of Catriona Riddell Associates, said:

 “The government has recognised the need to have stronger links between building the new homes the country needs and providing the right infrastructure to ensure that development is sustainable. 

 “This research demonstrates clearly that we need to move away from planning by numbers to place-based strategic planning and that, in two tier areas, the counties have a significant role to play alongside the local planning authorities”


Notes to editor

  • The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) founded in 1899, is the UK’s oldest independent charity focused on planning and sustainable development. Through its work over the last century, the Association has improved the art and science of planning both in the UK and abroad. The TCPA puts social justice and the environment at the heart of policy debate, and seeks to inspire government, industry and campaigners to take a fresh perspective on major issues, including planning policy, housing, regeneration and climate change.
  • Catriona Riddell, the Director of Catriona Riddell & Associates Ltd, is a chartered town planner with substantial experience working on the development and implementation of planning policy. Since her company was established in 2011, Catriona has supported local authorities and partners, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, on a wide range of planning issues but specialises in strategic planning and the Duty to Cooperate.
  • References to affordable housing in this press release are based on the government’s definition of affordable housing  (ie homes available for below market rent or social rent)
  • Results of the TCPA survey (21 county authorities responded):

How would you characterise the need for affordable homes in your area?

Significant need     Moderate need    Limited need
62%                      29%                    9%

Regional breakdowns – How would you characterise the need for affordable homes in your area?

Significant need Moderate need Limited need Total
South East 33% 67% 0% 100%
South West 67% 33% 0% 100%
East Midlands 67% 0% 33% 100%
West Midlands 0% 100% 0% 100%
North East 100% 0% 0% 100%
North West 50% 50% 0% 100%
East 86% 14% 0% 100%
Yorkshire and the Humber 0% 0% 100% 100%