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09 Nov 2016
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The problem is crystal clear – we’re not building enough houses to meet demand. Unfortunately the solution is not as straight forward, and is complicated further by attempts to pin all the blame on specific parts of the supply chain.
The ‘planning process’ is one area which frequently comes under attack in the national media with significant delays and a drop in the number of applications approved being reported. Personally I feel all this ‘passing the buck’ is becoming depressing and it’s time we recognise this is no one’s fault, it’s a challenging task we all face, and it’s about time we all pull together to find some real solutions.
Planning isn’t the biggest challenge I see in delivering the scale of housing required, I think the issue is four-fold:
If you’ve read, and been tempted to believe, the articles recently that point fingers at planning, take a look at these figures. In 2015 planning permission was granted for 255,032 new homes in England, according to the Home Builders Federation (HBF). That’s 57 per cent more than a low point of 162,204 in 2009. This is supported by figures published by the Government in March which show that the number of major applications being processed swiftly by local authorities is also at an all-time high, with a record 81 per cent decided within the required time. So, as far as planning permission goes, we’re actually on an upwards trend.
For me, the more worrying gap is actually between the number of planning permissions granted and the number of homes actually built. In February 2015, the Local Government Association published figures that indicated there were 475,000 homes in England that had been given planning permission but had yet to be built.
So why do we have this gap? We’ve become increasingly reliant on private developers to deliver our houses. This poses a real challenge in attracting investment in areas where the market fails to provide adequate incentives to supply, and exposes the sector to land banking and release of sites and homes by housebuilders according to private, rather than national, interest.
While the planning process can delay development, this isn’t always a negative thing. Taking our time to plan will ensure the effective and sustainable delivery of the right type of housing, and the creation of high-quality places that are well integrated with other economic, social and physical infrastructure. In our rush to build new homes, we can’t just plonk houses down without the other infrastructure – schools, transport, hospitals, parks, businesses – that people need to live.
We need to evolve and adapt to what people need today, but always with a long term plan for the future. This is what we need to solve the housing crisis – planning that is measured and considered, and a culture that supports development, instead of placing blame.
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