Just 69 council housing projects were given the go-ahead in the greater South West in the first three months of the Government's new planning regime.
The figure, which represents a thumping 88% drop on the previous quarter, underlines the struggle the region faces in tackling a chronic shortage of affordable homes.
According to a report by the Home Builders Federation (NBF), just 3,682 homes were approved across the South West in the second quarter of 2012, a significant fall on the 5,028 sanctioned in the same period last year. The figures were worse still when looking at council or social housing. The 69 projects given detailed planning approval also equate to a 64% fall on the same three months last year.
They data covers a period when the Government's National Planning Policy Framework – a slimmed down version of existing guidance – came into force to get more houses and factories built.
More than 1,300 pages of planning guidance have been slashed to just 50, but ministers were forced to revise their plans following anger from conservation groups and environmentalists fearing the countryside was at risk.
The final version included writing into the guidance that previously developed land will have to be built on first.
To meet officially projected housing need, 60,000 homes per quarter should be being built in England. But the latest figures revealed 25,0000 housing permissions in the quarter – well under half the required number to meet housing requirements.
The NBF said fewer homes are being built in England than at any time since the 1920s. Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: "Under the new planning system, local authorities have much more power over what is built in their area. But with that power comes a responsibility to provide the housing their communities need. Government needs to ensure that councils are meeting this responsibility.
"Building the homes we need would take millions off social housing waiting lists and enable beleaguered first time buyers to get a foot on the ladder. It could also create half a million new jobs, and give the country a massive and much-needed economic boost."
The Government last week announced a package of measures aimed at boosting house building and reviving the economy, and included measures to provide more social rented accommodation and to help first-time buyers.