Powers to push through housing delivery

Powers to act against developers, who get planning permission for housing but then do not proceed with the building, are being sought by local authorities.

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 for several years, without success.

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. This means more than 1.1. million have been approved but not built.

LGA housing spokesperson, Cllr David Renard, 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. By giving councils the right powers to incentivise the 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”.

House-builders, however, see things rather differently. Planning director at the Home Builders Federation, Andrew Whitaker, 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 actually have 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 to begin 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 300,000 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 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”.

Head of housing and planning at the National Federation of Builders, Rico Wojtulewicz, said: ” Almost a third of councils are not meeting their housing targets and five are delivering less than 36% of their housing needs. It is 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 just to simply shift the blame to house-builders”.