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Paul Groves looks at new research which points to significant growth in unimplemented planning permissions

According to new research published by the Local Government Association (LGA), there are more than 423,000 homes that have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built.

With the nation crying out for homes and the news regularly filled with pieces focusing on how difficult it is for ‘normal’ people to find somewhere to live, this study shows that the number of unbuilt plots has grown by almost 16 per cent in the last year.

The research which covers England and Wales, was commissioned by the LGA and carried out by industry experts Glenigan. It shows that during 2015/16, the number of unimplemented planning permissions in was 365,146, rising to 423,544 in 2016/17.

What we need are greater powers for councils where housebuilding has stalled

Paul Groves Paul Groves Editor of Specification magazine

Dealing with idleness

According to the LGA, which represents 370 councils across the county, the analysis highlights how local authorities need greater powers to make sure that unbuilt land which has planning permission doesn’t just sit idle.

The research also shows that new homes are taking longer to build, with the average now being 40 months from planning permission to completion, which is eight months longer than it was in 2013/14.

I would echo the calls from the LGA for councils to be given greater powers to help drive completion rates.

We need to make it much easier for local authorities to stop developers sitting on planning permissions and not completing the build in a timely fashion once authorised.

The LGA calls for powers to make compulsory purchase of unbuilt land easier as well as allowing them to charge developers the full council tax rate for every unbuilt development after the original date of the planning permission expires.

No planning barrier

According to the research the planning system is not acting as a barrier to building, with councils in general, approving nine out of every 10 planning applications. This saw planning permission granted for 321,202 new homes during 2016/17 – which is a significant rise from the 2015/16 figure of 204,989.

LGA Housing spokesman, Cllr Martin Tett, is quoted in the report as saying: “In the last year, councils and their communities granted twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed.

“No-one can live in a planning permission. Councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.”

Borrowing to build

The LGA is also urging the Government to accept its calls – which are echoed by the Treasure Select Committee for a complete scrapping of the cap that stops councils borrowing to build.

“To tackle the new homes backlog and to get the country building again, councils also need the freedom to borrow and invest in desperately-needed new homes, as recognised by the influential Treasury Select Committee last month,” adds Cllr Tett in the report.

The nation is crying out for new homes to make up for decades of under supply and as an industry, we know we have the skills and the drive to match this desperate need.

We failed when our target was previously 200,000 homes a year and now that the Government has targeted housebuilding at 300,000 a year, we need to ensure that all possible barriers are removed – and fast.

What we need now is real impetus and political will from central Government to allow those on the ‘front line’ to drive through the projects that have already got planning permission and also find funds to act as the stimulus for even more building.

Paul Groves is Editor of Specification Magazine.


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