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Sun July 12 2020

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40% of houses with planning permission not getting built

20 Feb More than a million homes granted planning permission in the past decade have not yet been built, according to new analysis by the Local Government Association.

Latest figures show that 2,564,600 units have been granted planning permission by councils since 2009/10 while only 1,530,680 have been completed. That's a completion rate of just 60%.

The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012/13 with councils approving nine in 10 applications. While in some cases there will be a time lag between permission being granted and homes being built, new build completions have only increased by half as much in that time, the LGA said.

It said that the backlog of unbuilt homes showed that council planning departments were not to blame for any housing shortage, as house-builders – and occasionally ministers – generally assert.

Local authorities are pressing the government to use its forthcoming planning white paper to give councils powers to take action on unbuilt land that has planning permission. The LGA wants it to be easier for councils to purchase land compulsorily where homes remain unbuilt, and to be able to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.

LGA data 2009/10 2010/11 2011/2012 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 Total
Planning Permissions (units) 176,900 173,900 192,400 198,800 240,000 261,900 264,700 313,700 380,500 361,800 2,564,600
Completions 124,200 117,700 128,160 118,540 130,340 155,080 163,940 183,570 195,290 213,860 1,530,680

As part of its submission to the Treasury ahead of next month’s budget, the LGA is also calling for the government to reform Right to Buy, by allowing councils to keep all of the receipts of homes sold under RTB to replace them and to have the flexibility to set discounts locally.

LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard said: “The planning system is not a barrier to house building. The number of homes granted planning permission has far outpaced the number of homes being built.

”No-one can live in a planning permission, or a half-built house where work on a site has begun but not been completed.

“Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and house building has stalled.

“If we are to solve our housing shortage, councils need to be able to get building again and resume their role as major builders of affordable homes.

“It is also vital that the planning process is protected, so that councils and communities can ensure we realise the government’s ambition of building beautiful homes, which includes the necessary infrastructure and affordable housing.”

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "These figures give lie to the government’s claim that council planning departments are the problem in getting more new homes built.”

But Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning at the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “Cllr Renard and John Healey MP do not appear to understand the development process and their comments are deeply offensive to the 80% of small builders that over the previous 30 years have ceased trading. I encourage both to look into why so many local plans are allocating and granting such great numbers of undeliverable and difficult to deliver planning permissions.

“Before shovels are allowed in the ground, many developments have pre-commencement conditions to clear, contribution negotiations to conclude or major infrastructure investment to complete. Some permissions are outline planning applications, or are put forward by land promoters, not builders, who haven’t calculated the cost of actually building the homes.

“Sweeping statements about undelivered homes to make a political point, ignores delivery challenges and sustains the housing crisis. The HBA [House Builders Association] lobbied for a small sites register to ensure deliverable permissions get allocated. The LGA rejected it. We lobbied for a greater number of small and medium sites in local plans. The LGA rejected it. Yet we backed their call for an increase in planning fees to better resource planning departments and to unlock funding for council homes. It’s time that politicians on all sides understood the challenges of delivering homes and stopped playing politics with the housing crisis.”

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