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475,000 homes with approval yet to be built

Words: Laura Edgar
Empty land / Shutterstock_222405685

New research shows there are a ‘record’ 475,647 homes in England which have been granted planning permissions, but have yet to be built.

It found that the backlog has grown rapidly over the past two years.

The study was commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and carried out by Glenigan, which provides market analysis for the UK construction industry.

The research found that in 2013/14 there were a total of 443,265 unimplemented planning permissions, an increase from 381,390 in 2012/13. It shows that figure increased again in 2014/15 to 475,647.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says the figures underline the need for councils to be able to invest in building more homes and also for the skills shortage affecting the construction industry to be addressed.

It added that council leaders want powers to charge full council tax for every development that is not built from the point that the original planning permission expires.

Developments are taking longer to complete work on site, according to the LGA. It says it now takes 32 months on average, from the site receiving planning permission to building work being completed. This is 12 months longer than in 2007/8.

The LGA also found:

  • Planning applications approved in 2014/15 stood at 212,468, an increase from 187,605 in 2007/08, and “higher” than all previous years.

  • Councils still approve nine in every 10 applications.

  • Although the construction industry’s forecast annual recruitment need is up 54 per cent from 2013, there are 10,000 fewer construction qualifications being awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities.

  • There were 58 per cent fewer completed construction apprenticeships in 2015 than in 2009.

Peter Box, LGA housing spokesperson, said the figures “conclusively prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building”.

“In fact the opposite is true, councils are approving almost half-a-million more houses than are being built, and this gap is increasing.”

Box said that although private developers have a “key role” in solving the housing shortage, they can’t build 230,000 homes a year on their own.

“To tackle the new homes backlog and to get Britain building again, councils must have the power to invest in building new homes and to force developers to build homes more quickly.”

The lack of skilled workers, he said, is the “greatest barrier” to building.

To see the homes that are needed across the country built, and jobs and apprenticeships created, “councils must be given a leading role to tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building”.

Charles Mills, head of planning at Daniel Watney LLP, a property consultancy, said the research highlights a "very real" issue facing house builders: "A severe shortage of skills in the construction industry".

House builders, Mills continued, also have to contend with the limited availability of key materials too, with a lack of bricks hampering their ability to build the homes Britain needs.

"There is a compelling case for local authorities to return to house building, though many now lack the necessary resources. Placing an additional tax on development however, will not have the desired effect of speeding up development, but is likely to deter it altogether," he concluded.

Image credit | Shuttershock