Housebuilding targets in the South West have been slashed by almost a fifth since changes were made to planning rules to enable more housing to be built.
A report by think-tank Policy Exchange said the region made the biggest cut (18.28 per cent) in the country, more than double the national average of 7.24 per cent.
Councils in England have cut their home-building targets by more than 270,000 and the radical reductions could result in the lowest level of house-building since the 1920s, the think tank warned, casting doubt on claims that the Government is setting carte blanche for developers to concrete over the countryside.
Regional Spatial Strategies were introduced in 2004 and set planning frameworks for all areas of England outside London. They were abolished by the Coalition in 2010 in a move designed to give local authorities more power.
Councils have used this power to reduce targets, with the target in the whole South West being cut by 108,380, almost double the next highest, in the South East. The regions are the two with the most biggest shortages.
Although the targets are seldom hit, they govern the release of land for housing, meaning that less land will be made available, said Policy Exchange, as councils drag their feet in areas where more housing may be unpopular – whether because it may cause overcrowding, as in the South East, or infringe on countryside, as in the South West.
The report calls for the Government to ensure that councils build the number of homes indicated in their targets, rather than seeking to force them to increase them.
The number and powers of neighbourhood plans should be increased, said the report, and more brownfield sites should be used for housing.
“The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have rightly made it clear that we need to build more homes. Yet the Government is on track to preside over the lowest level of house-building since the 1920s,” the report’s author Alex Morton said.
“Relying on councils to expand housing targets was a mistake. The coalition should focus on fixing the failures with the housing market.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “The analysis in this Policy Exchange report is completely wrong.
“Top-down regional targets didn’t work and built nothing but resentment. It is meaningless to point to targets which were never going to be built.
“As promised in the Coalition Agreement, this Government is abolishing the ineffective, unpopular and bureaucratic tier of regional planning.”
“Instead, it is simplifying the planning system and has introduced the New Homes Bonus to work with local communities, not against them.”
New housing supply has increased by 11 per cent this year to reach its highest level since 2008, the DCLG said.