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Bring small builders back into business - HBF

Words: Laura Edgar

Use the Autumn Statement to boost the housing supply, speed up the planning process and support small builders, say house builders.

The Home Builders Federation is calling on the government to improve the efficiency of the planning system so that more permissions are delivered in a shorter time frame.

It should also help small builders - the number of which have declined over the past 25 years - back into work, something Sir Michael Lyons endorsed yesterday when speaking at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Annual Conference ‘Building the future’.

He explained that volume house builders are very important in delivering the 200,000 homes a year the country needs, a point emphasised in The Lyons Housing Review, published in October. However, he said: “We simply cannot rely on volume house builders. We have to bring the small, medium-sized builders back into business.” 

HBF’s recommendations to the government include:

· Ensure local authority planning departments are adequately resourced to deliver an efficient service.

· A Principle of Development certificate should be introduced to simplify the planning process.

· Introduce an arbitration system to reduce delays and cost of the current appeals system.

· Cut the red tape and the wider regulatory burden on smaller developers.

· Ensure that local authorities release smaller sites when allocating land to level the playing field for SMEs.

The HBF believes SME builders have been “disproportionally hit by bureaucracy and complexity in the system”, which has contributed to a 78 per cent fall in the number of developers building fewer than 100 units between 1988 and 2013.

Executive chairman of the HBF, Stewart Baseley, said: “We need to see more help given to smaller developers. If we are to build 200,000-plus homes a year, all parts of the industry need to deliver and we need more players on the pitch.”

The HBF also says the time taken to get planning permissions to a stage where work can start on site takes far too long and that to reduce this, the government should “cut the bureaucratic system".

Basely added: “The Autumn Statement provides government with a real opportunity to give housing supply a boost. If the industry is to build more homes more quickly we must address the failings inherent in the current planning process. We need a system that is responsive to current housing needs and not one that acts as a constraint. The current system is too slow, overly complex and costly and must be improved.”