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New research: 475,000 homes with approval still not built

Homes under construction

More than 475,600 homes have planning permission in England but remain unbuilt, according to new research by the Local Government Association (LGA) 

The group of council leaders claims this ‘record number’ of approved homes shows the planning system ‘is not a barrier to house building’ and is demanding more powers to ’invest in building new homes and to force developers to build homes more quickly’.

Local authorities also want powers to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.

The data was carried out by industry experts Glenigan and reveals that the backlog has grown rapidly over the past few years - the total of unimplemented planning permissions was 381,390 in 2012/13, 443,265 in 2013/14 and 475,647 in 2014/2015.

The research also showed that developers were taking longer to complete those schemes that were taken forward. The data revealed that the average time between a scheme winning permission and its completion was now 32 months - 12 months longer than in 2007/8.

In addition the number of planning applications for homes being approved in 2014/15 was 212,468 - up from 187,605 in 2007/08 and is higher than all previous years.

Councillor Peter Box, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: ’These figures conclusively prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building. In fact the opposite is true, councils are approving almost half a million more houses than are being built, and this gap is increasing.

’While private developers have a key role in solving our chronic housing shortage, they cannot build the 230,000 needed each year on their own. To tackle the new homes backlog and to get Britain building again, councils must have the power to invest in building new homes and to force developers to build homes more quickly.

To end our housing crisis councils have to be given the powers to get on with it

’Skills is the greatest barrier to building, not planning. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role to tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building.

He concluded: ’New homes are badly-needed and councils want to get on with the job of building them. If we are to see a genuine end to our housing crisis we have to be given the powers to get on with it.’

2016.01.06   Glenigan   LGA   unimplemented residential planning

2016.01.06 Glenigan LGA unimplemented residential planning

Comment

Ben Derbyshire, chair of The Housing Forum and managing partner at HTA Design 
Well, naturally enough, the LGA would say that the planning system is not to blame for the shortage of homes, but we do need to move on from the blame game and collaborate on a coherent plan for doubling the supply of new homes. At The Housing Forum, we recognise that while housing supply and planning approval numbers have both increased it’s still a long road back to a balanced market which will need all sectors of the industry working together to play their part.

’We share some concerns with the association about side policies which rob social-housing-Peter to pay home-owning-Paul as a balanced housing market for all needs affordable homes to rent. The boost to private housebuilding on the supply side should now be accompanied with devolution measures to enable Metropolitan Authorities to tax and spend at a local level, and build the homes they need to compete as cities. We also need more measures, incidentally, to ensure quality, and embrace modern techniques and manufacture. We must not allow the rush for numbers to overwhelm other important criteria.

’Government should be pulling all the levers available to them, supporting all forms of housing provision if it is to have any chance of success. The Local Government and Housing Association movement has a crucial contribution to this endeavour and we hope that more can be done to put in place structures that will bolster their delivery of social, affordable, build-to-rent and shared ownership homes especially. And, by the way, for those who will not have the opportunity of a new home, we should prioritise keeping older homes warm and in good repair.’

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders
’The imposition of council tax on unbuilt homes could increase the risks of bringing forward new developments by small house builders. The measure could deliver the opposite of what it hopes to achieve by reducing the number of smaller housing developments. SMEs already face serious challenges in terms of access to finance and scarcity of small sites. For small house builders to be liable for council tax on properties which can’t be built would add yet another layer of risk and act as a further deterrent to smaller developers. It is already commonplace for local authorities to start charging council tax on homes that are incomplete – sometimes before even the basics, such as plastering, have been finished. It seems there’s now a danger of council tax being charged if you do build and also charged if you can’t build. That can’t be right.”

David Birkbeck, Design for Homes
’I agree with the need for local authorities to build to boost supply. But there are five causes of low supply, in order of influence:

  1. Too much dependence on market sale which is only deliverable when people have confidence to buy AND can get mortgages - last summer the new rules about testing applicants for affordability if rates rise shut out tens of thousands of households. The Starter homes initiative is sure to worsen this as many units that would have been for rent will now be for sale to households at risk of being turned down for mortgages. Last time England delivered more than 200,000 homes, HAs and councils built about 1 in 5. It’s heading towards 1 in 15.
  2. Skills. The LGA is right, it needs greater investment but the recent Budget announcement of an Apprenticeship Levy will hit the Construction Industry Training Board hard - it is the midwife of new recruits.
  3. Local authorities are dangerously underresourced. The time to planning approval has not risen much in recent years but the time it takes local government, in particular highways and education authorities to discharge conditions and approve infrastructure is crazy. Even the Government reckons 30-40% of sites yield no new home in the first 12 months after approval.
  4. Development finance. As the costs of both construction and land rise, on bigger sites developers simply don’t have the means to build more until they have sold what they have built.
  5. Size of sites. Total permissions are up but on much fewer outlets. Big sites don’t yield more homes, especially when the percentage of rented homes is collapsing as these used to frontload schemes. There is a limit to the number of buyers outside investment hotspots.’

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • 6. Tax. Taxing the supply of something you want more of to be built, via S106, etc, will reduce it and make it much more complex to deliver. The bar for affordable housing provision should be raised to, for example, 40 homes minimum. Then more homes would get built and there would be more smaller builders around prepared to do it.

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