Wales’ housing land supply policy: 5 lessons after 5 years

The Savills Blog

Wales’ housing land supply policy: 5 lessons after 5 years

In 2018, in direct response to the local planning authorities (LPAs) not meeting housing delivery targets, and more applications on unallocated sites going to appeal, a decision was taken to temporarily disapply paragraph 6.2 of Technical Advice Note (TAN) 1. The decision removed the ‘considerable’ weight given to the ‘lack of a 5-year housing land supply as a material consideration in determining planning applications for housing’.

In March 2020, this move was made permanent with the revocation of TAN1 in its entirety, which also formally removed the need for LPAs in Wales to calculate a 5-year housing land supply. The policy was replaced with a mechanism for monitoring delivery against either an average annual requirement, or a housing trajectory, agreed as part of a Local Development Plan (LDP).

Five years on from the original consultation, and following recent updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in England, we consider how the changes have played out in Wales.  

Lesson 1: Methodology

Research indicates that a lack of consistency in calculating 5-year housing land supply can be linked to insufficient sites for housing in England. In contrast, since 2006, Welsh LPAs have benefitted from consistent methodology using the residual method. Despite this, housing land supply shortfalls have persisted in Wales, suggesting that, while methodology is a useful starting point, factors such as economic uncertainty and undeliverable sites must be taken into account.

Lesson 2: Planning for 4, 5 or more years

While the principle is sound, the goal-oriented nature of 5-year housing land supply policy may have added unnecessary pressure. Why not four years in some cases – as per recent changes to the NPPF? And, while it may bring its own challenges, should the goal not be to encourage LPAs to plan for more than five years if they can?

In March 2018, only six of the 25 Welsh authorities had a housing land supply of five years or more, suggesting that the focus on meeting five years, exactly and consistently, may be part of the problem.

Lesson 3: The carrot, the stick & the bigger picture

Prior to the revocation of paragraph 6.2 in Wales, a lack of 5-year housing land could be afforded ‘considerable weight’ allowing planning applications and appeals on unallocated sites to be considered more favourably. Since then, there have been no repercussions for LPAs which have been unable to demonstrate a readily-available supply of land or for not delivering enough homes.

Indeed, in September 2020, the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, published a note stating that ‘plans adopted prior to 4 January 2016 will remain the LDP for determining planning applications until replaced by a further LDP’. This gives LPAs with an aged plan further reprieves.

This points to a need to maintain a form of incentive for LPAs to encourage delivery. For example, paragraph 226 of the NPPF states that authorities ‘which have an emerging local plan that has either been submitted for examination or has reached Regulation 18 or Regulation 19’ will only be required to meet a 4-year housing land supply. This may ease some of the pressure on LPAs preparing their plans while also incentivising LPAs without an up-to-date plan to prepare one.

Lesson 4: Resourcing

Back in 2018, the temporary disapplication of paragraph 6.2 aimed to ‘alleviate some of the intermediate pressure’ on LPAs dealing with speculative planning applications on unallocated land. The idea was that it would both reduce workload and facilitate progress on the preparation of LDPs.

However, the persistent absence of up-to-date LDPs in Wales suggests that it hasn’t achieved the desired result, and that perhaps wider, sometimes global, delays and resourcing issues need to be weighed up against the demands imposed by speculative applications.

Lesson 5: Re-defining the meaning of ‘speculative’ and ‘planning by appeal’

In a tightly-clad planning system, which calls for a myriad of increasing outputs in support of a planning application, housebuilders are required to frontload a large proportion of information on submission. This is without considering internal due diligence when acquiring land, current issues relating to phosphates, and the Biodiversity Net Benefit Provision, effective from October 2023. Paired with a tough economic climate and affordability challenges, a re-definition of terms such as ‘speculative’ and ‘planning by appeal’ would be appropriate, in recognition that pursuing or lodging an appeal on an unallocated site is not a straightforward, or inexpensive, exercise.


Despite any associated difficulties, research indicates that housing land supply calculations remain a crucial policy tool to support housing provision. This is all the more evident when considering that the updated NPPF has persevered with the use of this methodology, albeit with significant amendments – as set out in paragraphs 76 and 226 of the NPPF – related, but not limited to, age and status of a Local Plan.

In Wales, with 5-year housing land supply calculations firmly revoked, and Planning Policy Wales 12 only mentioning housing land supply in relation to LPAs focusing on ‘the delivery of the identified housing requirement and the related land supply’ – with no obligations on how the requirement must be identified suggesting certain LPAs could plan for decline – it may be time to reconsider the role of policy tools for housing delivery.

While the policy is by no means perfect, the revival of these obligations could help to ease challenges related to affordability, ownership and supply of much-needed affordable homes in Wales.


Further information

Contact Annamaria Sgueglia or Rhys Govier


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