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Councils seek new powers to push through housing delivery

10 May 21 Local authorities want powers to act against developers who get planning permission for housing but then do not get on and do any building.

Not everyone gets on with it
Not everyone gets on with it

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point the original planning permission expires.

It also wants councils to have compulsory purchase powers to acquire sites where developers fail to build out to contractually agreed timescales.

Both are policies for which the LGA has been pressing, without success, for several years.

Latest figures show that 2,782,300 homes have been granted planning permission by councils since 2010/11, while over the same period 1,627,730 have been built to completion. Thus more than 1.1 million have been approved but not built – 40% of the total.

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson said: “Councils are committed to working with government and developers to build the housing the country needs. It is good the number of homes built each year is increasing. But by giving councils the right powers to incentivise developers to get building once planning permission has been granted, we can go further and faster.

“Councils are granting permission for hundreds of thousands of homes but families who desperately need housing cannot live in a planning permission. This is why we need the Queen’s Speech to deliver the reform needed to enable councils to tackle the housing crisis.”

  2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 Total
Planning permissions (units) 173,900 192,400 198,800 240,000 261,900 264,700 313,700 380,400 384,700 371,800 2,782,300
Completions 117,700 128,160 118,540 130,340 155,080 163,940 183,570 195,390 214,410 220,600 1,627,730
The figures above, analysed by the LGA, are government data available here: Permissions and completions.

However, the house-builders see things rtather differently. Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation, said: “As numerous independent reports have shown, the latest by Sir Oliver Letwin, builders do not sit on land unnecessarily. Whilst housing supply has doubled in recent years the planning process remains the biggest constraint on further increases.

“Many of the homes included in these numbers will have actually been completed or are on sites where construction work is ongoing. Others will only have an initial consent and be struggling their way through the treacle of the local authority planning departments to get to the point where builders are allowed start work.

“We would welcome a contribution by local authorities towards housing supply but regardless of who builds the houses evidence clearly shows that if we are to reach the 300,00 target many more permissions will need to be granted. It is vital that planning departments are sufficiently resourced and that applications are processed efficiently so that work can begin on sites more quickly.  

“We would urge the LGA to work with its members and the industry on constructive moves to make the planning process more efficient, instead of looking to grab headlines with the same baseless claims every year.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning at the National Federation of Builders, said: “Almost a third of councils are not meeting their housing targets and five are delivering less than 36% of their housing need. It’s time the LGA recognised the negative impact that unambitious councils and the allocation of difficult, or impossible to deliver sites has on sustaining the housing crisis. We urge them to work with their members on better execution, not simply shift the blame to house-builders.”

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