The level of permissions granted was the highest yearly total since the Home Builders Federation (HBF) Housing Pipeline survey began in 2006.
The number of permissions granted tends to be reflected in the number of homes being completed around three to four years later – a delay indicating the time taken to navigate the planning system from initial outline planning permission to spades in the ground.
However, there is some concern among house-builders that the number of sites granted permission fell by 11% in 2016, from 19,600 in 2015 to 17,500 in 2016, suggesting that permissions tend to be skewed towards larger ‘strategic’ sites. Whilst the headline number of plots permissioned now exceeds the pre-crash peak by around 15%, the number of sites on which those homes could eventually be built is down by more than 10% on the same time period.
Because of the infrastructure requirements on larger sites, these permissions tend to take longer to start being delivered.
The average permissioned site has increased by 16% in the last 18 months as local authorities, with ever-stretched resources focus their attention on larger sites. This highlights the problems small housebuilders have in finding suitable sites and progressing them through the planning process, issues explored in the recent HBF report, Reversing the Decline of Small Housebuilders, which found that returning even to 2007 levels of SMEs in the sector could boost housing supply by 25,000 homes per year. The Housing White Paper took on one of the report’s recommendations, calling for local authorities to provide a mix in the type and size of sites it is granting permission for- and not rely on a few large sites.
HBF chairman Stewart Baseley said: “We welcome the fact that local authorities continue to increase the number of planning permissions being granted. The number of permissions being granted is a strong indicator of future housing supply and will feed through into completed new homes in the years to come.
“The drop in the number of sites on which the permissions are being granted on is concerning. As the [government’s recent housing] White Paper indicates, we need to ensure that permissions are being granted on a mix of site sizes and that local authorities are not reliant on one or two large sites. A mix of site sizes will better ensure a flow of housing completions and also enable SME builders to play their part in delivering new homes.”