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Planning minister: ‘Split big sites to speed up housebuilding’

Brandon Lewis

Large-scale planning permissions are slowing down the delivery of new homes, according to housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis

Appearing before the House of Lords’ National Policy for the Built Environment Committee, Lewis said that he wanted to see a reduction in the time it took for homes to be built out once planning permission had been granted.

He said that, while 260,000 homes were granted planning permission last year, the number actually built is lagging 100,000 behind.

Councils, he said, could help resolve the situation by splitting sites into smaller parcels in their local plans.

Lewis told the committee: ‘One of the challenges we have is [that] private developers’ business models mean they will build out 48 homes a year on any given site.

‘If you have a site that is 900 homes [developers] will take 15 years [to do this]. If you have three developers doing 300 each they will take five years. Local authorities need to look at that.’

He added: ‘One thing I have been talking to local authorities about is making them more aware in their local plans and neighbourhood plans of identifying more small sites, because they get built out more quickly. They are also often more appreciated by local communities.’

Lewis said that he recently visited a site in Didcot, Oxfordshire, which was achieving a build-out rate of 400 homes a year because four developers were competing with each other to build.

‘We need more of that,’ he added.

Lewis said proposed measures in the Housing and Planning Bill to introduce planning permission in principle for sites identified by councils would encourage more small housebuilders into the market.

He said: ‘The costs are currently £24,000 per plot to get planning permission on average. If you are a small housebuilder, that is a substantial investment of money. Even if that land is identified in a local plan, it doesn’t mean in principle you will be able to build. When you go to a bank or lender you are asking them to gamble on planning permission, which is why we have seen a 75 per cent fall in small developers, along with the financial crash.

‘[The proposed measures will introduce] a significant change. Now you are able to go to a lender to say: “I know I can build five, six, seven homes here, I just need to work out what they look like so my business case will have that worst and best case scenario”.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • The other thing Brandon Leiws might do is raise the threshold for affordable housing tax from around 10 units to 40 units. Under 40 units it is much more difficult to make a viable development without grant. This would also have the effect of bringing back to life lots of small developers who have disappeared for this reason. That would make a good Xmas boost for housing next year.

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  • Not in large house builders interest to build quickly. They would rather build 48 houses per year for 15 years and have secure work lined up for them than building as fast as they can and hoping that work will be there when they finish.

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