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Planning overhaul needed to speed up housebuilding

The latest housebuilding data shows that there was an increase in the number of new build housing schemes started in England in the second quarter of the year but the actual number of homes completed continued to fall, which suggests that the government may miss its target of building one million new homes over this parliament.

Various politicians have vowed to help residential property developers increase the rate of housebuilding in order to address the growing supply-demand imbalance in the market, which has contributed significantly to higher property prices and rents across many parts of the country. But until the “chaos” in the local authority planning departments are resolved, housebuilders will have no chance of building anywhere near the 250,000 or so new build homes needed to resolve the housing crisis, according to one leading estate agent.

Trevor Abrahamson (right), director of north London based Glentree Estates, 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.” Planning overhaul needed to speed up housebuilding

Overall, the UK has missed its housebuilding targets by a staggering 1,199,180 since 2004, recent figures from Yorkshire Building Society revealed.

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

Last year around 120,000 new homes were built across the UK, which is less than 50% of the amount needed to help solve the present housing crisis.

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

“These are not just major urban schemes but also the minor applications for house extensions, and so forth, where applications are waiting an interminable amount of time for an adjudication.

“Only one in 16 councils are processing applications, with a 50% delay on time and even when you do receive a successful consent, it is riddled with mindless conditions which are inadequately justified by ecological and environmental rationale and is gobbledy gook to most common sense applicants and conspicuously ‘jobs for the boys’ i.e. for the ecological and environmental consultants to be required to produce ‘long winded’ reports.”

The property veteran of four decades is now calling on the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, to do a ‘root and branch’ reform of the planning process by creating a planning czar and expanding the Department of the Environment, which will then not only deal with planning appeals, but with all minor applications that will be adjudicated exclusively on planning criteria and not, as present, influenced by “petty local politics, localism and nimbyism”.

With housebuilders failing to deliver anywhere near the number of homes the country needs, property prices will inevitably rise further in the medium to long term, even if there is a dip in the short term, making it even harder for many people to acquire property.

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