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Backlog of more than 400,000 homes with permission, says LGA

Permissions not being built out / iStock

According to research by the Local Government Association (LGA), there are more than 450,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built in England and Wales.

Construction data analysts Glenigan undertook the research on behalf of the LGA, taking into consideration financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17. The analysis uses data taken from Glenigan’s database of construction projects.

It suggests that the backlog has grown by almost 16 per cent in the past year.

In 2015/16, there were 365,146 unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales, increasing to 423,544 in 2016/17.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the research also suggests that developers are taking longer to build new homes, with 40 months on average being cited as the time period taking schemes to move from approval to completion. That is an increase of eight months compared with 20134/14.

For the LGA, the planning system “is not a barrier to building”. Councils, it is said, are approving nine in 10 planning applications – 321,202 homes were approved in 2016/17 compared with 204,989 in 2015/16.

The analysis underlines the need for councils to be given greater powers so they can take action on undeveloped land that has planning permission, said the LGA, including compulsory purchase powers.

Additionally, councils should be able to charge developers full council tax for every development not built out from the point at which the original planning permission expires. The borrowing cap should be scrapped too.

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. In fact the opposite is true.”

“Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 housebuilding target set by the government on their own.

“We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys, questioned the feasibility of the LGA’s proposals.

“Given the costs involved in securing a planning permission, it is just not credible to imagine that developers would then sit twiddling their thumbs once permission is actually granted – however, that seems to be the starting assumption of the LGAs position.”

Noting that every council is different, Lowes said that the LGA’s plans would require a “quantum leap forward in terms of skills, funding and strategy”.

He said the proposal to apply council-tax on unimplemented development raises a number of questions, including who would pay. It “could open up a number of unintended consequences; for instance, rather than encouraging the implementation of development, it might discourage developers/landowners from seeking planning permission in the first place, particularly on marginal sites”.

Image credit | iStock