Saturday, 18 April 2015

Planning data casts doubt on building reforms

Figures showing house builders have planning permission for more than 400,000 homes have cast doubt on government attempts to revive development.

The Local Government Association has published the data, which shows work hasn’t even started on around half of the approved homes.

At the current rate of construction it would take developers three-and-a-quarter years to clear the backlog by building all of the new homes local authorities have signed off.

Prime minister David Cameron yesterday announced a range of measures to boost house building and get ‘the planners off our backs’.

These include speeding up planning applications and allowing the Planning Inspectorate to rule on applications if a local authority ‘has a track record of consistently poor performance’.

From early 2013 the inspectorate will also be able to reduce section 106 requirements to build affordable homes on sites where the agreements are deemed to be making developments unviable.

The LGA denied the planning system is the cause of the current slump in house building.

Sir Merrick Cockell, chair of the LGA, said: ‘These figures conclusively prove that local authorities are overwhelmingly saying “yes” to new development and should finally lay to rest the myth that the lack of new homes being built is the fault of the planning system.

‘Even if planning departments did not receive another new home application for the next three years, there are sufficient approved developments ready to go to last until 2016 at the current rate of construction.’

Some commentators also questioned whether planning reforms will deliver the required boost for house building.

Jon Neale, director of residential research at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: ‘There is also no doubt that, in some instances, heavy affordable housing requirements are holding back development. However, while this is an issue on some sites, I would question the extent to which it is preventing much higher levels of new build activity.’

House builders were more positive about the announcements.

Stephen Teagle, managing director of the affordable housing division at Galliford Try, said: ‘Taken as a whole this is a positive mix of supply-side and demand-side measures aimed at stimulating housing starts, building capacity and unblocking some of the barriers.’

The Home Builders Federation said the ‘tweaks’ to the planning system should allow more homes to be built.

It added: ‘The announcement that poorly performing local authorities will have decisions on housing taken away from them is particularly welcome.’

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