London boroughs approve 64% fewer new builds in Q1 this year ahead of mayoral election.

The number of new build homes approved for development in the first three months this year is nearly two thirds fewer than for the same period last year.

Nearly 40% of applications are currently being rejected, which estate agents Stirling Ackroyd say is the highest rate for a year – in 2015’s Q1, the rate at which applications were rejected was just 18%.

The number of homes permitted varies wildly with Westminster approving 626 and Southwark permitting 97% of developments. However Richmond council granted permission to just 11 homes in the first three months of the year.

At that rate, a total of 17,290 homes would be approved in 2016, far short of the 50,000 estimated to be needed each year to meet the capital’s needs. For comparison, the 11,870 applied for in the same period last year would have resulted in a total of 47,460 over the year.

However town hall planning departments aren’t solely to blame with applications also down. Permission to build 7,050 homes was applied, less than half of the 14,400 in the same period last year.

Andrew Bridges, managing director of Stirling Ackroyd, said: “It’s a sluggish and disappointing start to 2016, which should be a year of real progress. In an election year, the most frustrating side to the slow pace of planning departments is that London has the drive, capacity and ability to take control of its housing problems. Londoners want change. And if you believe all the mayoral candidates’ speeches – everyone wants a positive outcome too.

“But change isn’t happening. The number of homes are falling to new lows, contributing to a completely unfair and immoral housing shortfall. On the streets of the capital, homes are the top concern – and yet this isn’t being heard. Housing is politically fashionable – but sadly not politically practical. As the Chancellor demonstrated in the Budget last month, housebuilding can slide down the agenda quickly. It’s imperative this slide doesn’t happen this summer after the new Mayor takes office in City Hall. There’s no easy fix, and building alone isn’t sufficient to get people on the home ownership ladder. But enough new homes are a necessary starting point that is still so far away from reality.

“More homes bring more options. For those locked out of London every small improvement helps. But planning is the blockage. Unless all planning officials embrace a pragmatic approach to divvying up London’s space – the housing deficit will only worsen.”

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