Housebuilders have reacted with anger to a secret change in planning guidance that could result in local authorities dictating the size and type of houses they have to provide.

A late draft of Planning Policy Guidance Three (PPG3) includes a provision for local authorities to refuse planning permission to developments that fail to meet their standards on size and type of dwelling, as well as on affordability, on sites of more than 15 dwellings.

A commitment that the local authorities “should not make development unviable” has been deleted from the final draft.

PPG3, which could be introduced next month, would allow the ODPM to keep a tighter rein on housebuilders as it gears up for its sustainable communities plan.

However, Pierre Williams, House Builders’ Federation director of communications, said that the type of homes consumers want should be left to the market, not councils.

He said: “We’re very concerned that some local authorities opposed to development will use this route to dictate policy. The government talks about devices to solve the housing crisis but these policies aren’t tackling undersupply. Perhaps they should realise that people know their own minds.”

One housing expert warned: “The only consequence will be massive planning delays, an inability of housebuilders to secure commercially implementable planning permissions and a reduction in housing output.”