affordable housing
Local councils are obliged to develop infrastructure plans for their areas, including housing iStock

A group of MPs has attacked English councils for "dawdling" over their obligation to develop local plans for more much-needed housing to be built in their areas. Under the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in 2012, councils must develop local plans on developing their infrastructure, including a strategy to ensure more homes are built.

But parliament's Communities and Local Government Committee blasted the councils who had not yet developed or implemented local plans. According to a report by the committee, 44% of local councils had not adopted their plan and 17% as yet had no plan at all. There is a shortage of housing in England. House building is rising, but running at around half the level needed to meet demand. As a consequence, rents and house prices are rising sharply in affected areas, particularly London.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the communities committee, said the government should make it law for councils to produce and maintain local plans. "The NPPF is designed to work side by side with local plans," he said. "It's simply not good enough that 44% of local authorities don't have an adopted plan. The government needs to act to put an end to dawdling local authorities."

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis created the Local Plans Expert Group panel of experts, which published a report in March 2016 making a number of recommendations on how councils can speed up the development of local plans, such as financial incentives from central government.

"Eighty four percent of councils have already published a local plan which identifies land, including brownfield land, which is suitable for housing," said Councillor Peter Box, housing and planning spokesman at the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils.

"Any automatic assumption that brownfield sites are suitable for residential use, without enabling councils to consider issues such as location and the capacity of supporting infrastructure, is therefore unnecessary. A huge amount of research and multiple consultations are needed to ensure local plans reflect local opinions and map out development in an area not just over the coming years but over decades. Councils have always said that the process of getting plans in place would take time and the most important thing is to get them right."