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Planning system continues to slow housing delivery

With the number of new homes being built across the UK still significantly below the level needed to meet demand, housebuilders are often accused of sitting on land with planning consent and not building to help drive up house prices as well as rents. 

But the reality is that in order to increase the supply of much needed new build homes across the country, more actually needs to be done to help alleviate the challenges and obstacles facing residential property developers.

The lack of sufficient housing supply has caused property prices to rise well beyond wage growth, which has increased competition for properties and priced many people out of the market.

But until the “chaos” in the local authority planning  departments are resolved, housebuilders will have no  chance of building anywhere near the level of new build homes needed to resolve the housing crisis, according to  Trevor Abrahamson, director of Glentree Estates. 

He said: “With local authority cut-backs, planning  departments are reducing staff numbers across the country  which has resulted in a substantial reduction of planning approvals between 2010 and 2015 according to the Freedom of Information Act. 

“The local authorities are parlously under resourced and simply cannot cope with the workload.”

In Scotland, for instance, housebuilders report that they finding it harder than ever to make a start on new sites and get much needed homes out of the ground, a claim trade body Homes for Scotland (HFS) says is substantiated by statistics published last which reveal that, at 48.5 weeks, the time taken on planning decision times for major housing applications remains more than three times the statutory period of 16 weeks.

In fact, for the period July to September in 2016/17, the time has actually slowed by a day from the previous quarter.

Annual completion levels have effectively flatlined at an average of around 15,000 since 2010 – still some 40% below pre-recession levels – with a worrying drop in the total number of homes being started.

HFS director of planning, Tammy Adams, said: “With today’s figures showing no improvement, slow planning decisions, together with complications relating to conditions and developer contributions, continue to be one of the main blockers to the delivery of housing.

“We know ministers are not happy with current performance and that Scottish government officials are looking at the root causes of the delays. Whilst we hope that the planning review will refocus the system and prioritise the delivery of enough new, high-quality homes to meet housing need, the truth is that we just can't wait for that.

“There is an urgent need to get decisions out in good time, both on planning applications and appeals. If this doesn’t happen, the all-tenure housing crisis will only get bigger and this will be to the detriment of communities across Scotland.

“The Scottish government is now consulting on increasing planning fees for major developments. Planning services clearly need to be properly resourced, but a fee hike will not be palatable unless there is a guarantee that performance will improve.”

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