Housebuilders Call For Urgent Planning Reform

The National Audit Office has released a report stating that the government’s planning system is under performing and cannot demonstrate that it is meeting housing demand effectively.

Several housebuilders have added their voices to the criticism, saying that the planning process needs to be reformed and become much quicker to use. They want the government to liaise with local authorities to help push the number of new houses towards the 300,000 per year target, set to remedy the housing crisis.

This annual figure equates to 820 houses per day, which the National Federation of Builders (NFB) say is currently unachievable. They want the current method of assessing housing need overhauled with the government overseeing local planning to ensure that it is robust and identifies deliverable sites. In addition they feel that government should be involved in helping builders obtain finance.

Richard Beresford, the NFB’s chief executive, said: “We cannot build 820 new homes every day unless we are realistic about demand. Decades of failure are no excuse. We need action, not reviews. The government must learn from Homes England’s experiences.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, House Builders Association (HBA) head of housing and planning policy said that changes so far have been no more than ‘tinkering’ and called for real reform.

“Even if we correctly assess demand, unless we allocate deliverable sites and grant permissions, shovels won’t get into the ground. We have tinkered for years, it’s time for the Government to get real and actually reform the entire planning process.”

Calls have also been made for more properties to be built for the older generation.

Nick Sanderson, the Audley Group’s chief executive explained: “It’s too focused on building more and more houses. Yes we need more housing supply. But we can do that by ending house blocking. By freeing up family homes that already exist we can prevent the property market grinding to a complete standstill, and give people houses to live in.

“House builders and government alike are ignoring where the greatest potential in the market sits: the over-55s. Two in five UK homes are under occupied, in the main due to lack of quality accommodation for older people to move into.

“If we truly want to kick start movement in the market we need to end the in-fighting and indecision, stop plastering over the cracks and invest in quality housing options for the older generation.”

Amyas Morse, NAO Comptroller and Auditor General, said: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand. From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well. The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

The government’s Housing Department is set to work with the Planning Inspectorate to reduce the time taken for planning appeals in an attempt to deliver the target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

What single improvement to the system will do the most to help housebuilders?

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