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40% of homes consented since 2011 not built, says Shelter

Words: Laura Edgar
Housebuilding / iStock-889654612

Research by housing charity Shelter shows that more than 380,000 homes granted planning permission between 2011 and 2019 have not been built. 

This accounts for 40 per cent of all the homes with planning consent in England. 

Shelter analysed government data and figures from the Home Builders Federation* (HBF) suggesting that the backlog of homes with permission which have not been built grew by 100,000 in the past 12 months. Shelter says this analysis suggests that planning permission is the “primary stumbling block” to getting homes built. 

But the charity contends that the government’s planning reforms – set out in consultation document Planning for the Future – would not boost housebuilding themselves.

It points to the review carried out by Sir Oliver Letwin in 2018, which found that developers release a limited number of homes for sale at any one time, slowing down the system, which is why, Shelter explains, it is warning that planning reform is no replacement for government investment.  

It wants the government to use its forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to accelerate spending on social housing and “turbocharge” construction in the face of the Covid-19 recession. Social housing, Shelter adds, would help the government to achieve its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “The chronic shortage of decent, genuinely affordable homes in this country is one that must be fixed. But the government’s planning reforms fundamentally misdiagnose the problem.  

“The idea that the planning system is stopping homes being built is a myth. Across the country hundreds of thousands of ‘phantom homes’ sit on sites with planning permission fully approved. Rubber stamps are no replacement for direct investment in high-quality housing.  

“The government must roll up its sleeves and build the homes local communities really need, now more than ever in the face of a Covid-recession. It should spend the cash its set aside for housing that much faster and start building social homes now.  The only way we are going to start building what we need is through pounds not planning.” 

Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, the countryside charity, said of the figures: “The backlog of building in the midst of a housing crisis is one of this generation’s untold scandals. The figures provide yet more evidence of the fatal flaws in the government’s planning reforms, which are blinkered by unreachable housing targets regardless of quality, tenure or genuine affordability.

“Unless there is a major change of direction from the government, we risk more poor-quality homes that do nothing to tackle the housing crisis or the nature and climate emergencies. The government urgently needs to give councils more powers to set stringent, enforceable deadlines for homes to be built, and to require more affordable homes that meet local needs, especially in rural areas where shortages are particularly acute.”

* Shelter analysed the figures in the English housing pipeline figures from the House Builders Federation and Glenigans’ New Housing Pipeline q3 2019 Report, and new-build completions figures from MHCLG table 120. The charity assumes that developers take on average two years after full planning permission is granted to construct the approved homes. 

Image credit | iStock