Monday, 02 March 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.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • Peter Fish

    This is not new - indeed this data was available to all the authors of 'how great is this government' over the past days.

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  • Christopher Dale

    Typical of Government, look around for an easy scapegoat to blame for their own abysmal performance on housebuilding. Perish the thought it's profiteering developers who've contributed to holding it back.

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  • Well yes, but developers are in business to make a profit. The aim is to get them to develop the land by ensuring generous profit margins to offset the risks involved with low demand. And it's not planning permissions that are the issue, it's s106 obligations - ie the conditions attached to those permissions.

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  • Rick Campbell


    Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.

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  • Chris

    Quite so hulagu - why is it then so wrong for workers, who are in business to make a profit, to demand a fairer share of the wealth their labours help to create. Yes, they have to give up some of their share to fund the share of the risk takers, but surely it is a question of balance.

    At a time when workers have spent years being punished and told they risked pricing themselves out of work, and are now facing the longest period of pay reduction since before the war, is it too much to expect developers to use the land given to them and the funds given to them to build new homes and only make a modest profit in return.

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  • Victor Singh

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

    Planning is not the problem. It's lack of vision and a coherent plan from the Government. I take back everything I have said about the previous administration because at least they had a strategy. This lot seem to be looking for scape goats and quick wins.

    I say this as a non-Planner. In anycase Compliance with Building Regs will still require developers to do, what was required by Planners (especially on extensions).

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  • And all the new regs coming over the hill that will increase costs further for developers without a pro rata increase in profits will drive down numbers even further. Allow housing depts to negotiate with developers, at least they both want to see more houses built - the problem of housing supply need re-thinking to develop new solutions, we do not need knee jerk headline grabbing quick fixes. We need housing depts and developers to use build to rent with flexible tenure options built in so that in the future those that want and can buy are ae to do so, and some creative design and build too so that the costs don't just lumped off the price of the land or added on to the cost of the house.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Am I properly detecting suggestions that housing to purchase is not as available as it should be because of costs and lack of investment?

    My tiny brain suggests that there might be a need for rented housing that people can afford to live in.

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  • Christopher Dale

    Quiet Dr Xavier, they may hear you and declare building regs are to be scrapped next week.

    Demand for housing is not low Hulagu so where does the risk element come in?; what is in demand is housing that people can afford to buy. If this involves a slightly lower return developers should suck it up. The poor are being asked to accept lower benefits, and the working plebs are suffering wage stagnation and rising living costs. Why the hell should developers be immune?

    Curious, but if you look at the glossy mission statements of some of these developers you don't see any stating their real intent: "Our mission is to leave fallow the land we have already got permission on in order to line our own pockets and worsen the housing crisis".

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  • Incompetence on a grand scale.

    Announcement yesterday - torn apart by a government agency today.

    I love these guys - they make me feel so clever.

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