The government’s target of building 1m new homes over this parliament is a realistic one, according to Aston Mead land and planning director Adam Hesse.
Fewer than 460,000 homes were built between 2011 and 2014, according to figures from the National Housing Federation, despite forecasts that 974,000 new homes were needed. This shortfall contributed to the significant shortfall of residential properties across the country, prompting the government to increase its housebuilding target to 1m by 2020, including more Starter Homes and shared ownership properties.
Although the latest data from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) shows that the volume of new homes built in England in the first quarter of this year fell, Hesse believes that the government’s housebuilding ambition is rational, and based on existing plans, its target “is perfectly possible”.
Hesse said: “The danger is that the planning pessimists out there will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. A million homes by 2020 is perfectly possible – as the Home Builders Federation have stated quite clearly. But it will need conviction and commitment, as well as further government policies in favour of development, and help to speed up the planning process.
“We’ve already seen huge increases in output, with build rates on large sites doubling since 2010. There were more than 180,000 new homes delivered in 2014/15, with this year’s figure expected to be higher still. And by 2019 the big companies will be building double what they did six years ago. Now we need to speed up the momentum even further, so that we ensure we reach the target of 1m new homes by 2020.”
Despite his optimism, Adam Hesse says that the industry needs to see more land coming through the planning system, and processes that support both large and smaller housebuilders.
He explained: “Several significant advances have happened already. Brownfield sites will now automatically be approved for building, with £10m worth of funding to help local authorities prepare them. There are also plans to relax the planning rules for smaller house builders, enabling them to gain automatic planning permission on suitable sites. And changes to the section 106 agreement will enable developers to provide affordable homes to buy, instead of affordable homes for rent.
“But it’s local councils - the largest landowners in the country – which will be key to the success of this project. They must get up-to-date housing plans in place, ensuring that they are robust and evidence-based. They should review their planning application process and the conditions attached to planning which represent such a major challenge for developers. Plus they need to streamline their planning processes and improve communication so that once approved, building can get underway quickly.
“For their part, house builders are already investing in their supply chains and have taken on tens of thousands of new workers to ensure there is the capacity and skills required. All we need now is the conviction and commitment to carry it off.”