Landowners are bypassing special Rural Exception Sites aimed at delivering affordable homes on the edges of settlements and putting the land up for development on the open market instead.
Rural exception sites were set up to create affordable homes in perpetuity on plots where development would not otherwise be allowed.
Under the policy, a landowner provides land at below market value on the basis that the land is used to build affordable homes for local people.
But Lance Turner, associate at Bruton Knowles in Worcester, said there was little incentive for landowners to do so.
He said: “We believe the problem stems from the widespread failure of local authorities to identify five year land banks in their Local Plans, which means they are less able to resist open market development schemes coming forward on town and village fringes.”
According to the latest figures from the Country Land and Business Association the number of affordable homes being built on Rural Exception Sites has dropped from 1,632 in 2014/15 to just over one thousand in 2015/16.
In the last five years, just 186 affordable homes have been built on Rural Exception Sites in Worcestershire.
“This trend is almost entirely due to the fact landowners are now able to promote open market housing on settlement edges rather than on exception sites,” said Lance.
“Rural Exception Sites were set up as part of the National Planning Policy Framework to try and create much needed housing in rural towns and villages, on land that would generally be out of bounds for development schemes.”
But the Government’s mission to relax planning controls in order to boost new home delivery has skewed the balance.
He added: “There is now little incentive for landowners to use Exception Site schemes to build affordable homes below market price when they can just as easily go to the open market and expect better returns from developers building market-value homes.
“If local councils have not adopted a workable Local Plan the developer will have the whip hand when it comes to negotiating new sites on the edge of existing settlements.”
Lance said homes being built at market value were often out of the reach of local workers or low paid families.
“We need affordable homes to ensure there is adequate housing provision for workers, now and in the future. The region’s housing delivery strategy must dovetail with the economic strategy. Failure to provide a mix of housing, including affordable, in the short-term could have a detrimental effect on the region’s economic growth and success in the long-term.”
But there is a flipside for people struggling to get on to the property ladder.
“Development schemes being brought forward on the open market will still have to include a percentage of affordable housing, somewhere between 30 and 45 per cent depending on the area.
“So although the number of affordable housing schemes coming forward may be falling, there will be an element of affordable homes on lots more open market sites.”