Log in | Register

Fast track smaller housing schemes, CPRE says

House building

The cost of planning applications for smaller housebuilders should be reduced to help build more homes, according to a new report.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says that the cost and complexity of the information required to obtain planning permission has acted as a barrier for smaller and medium sized firms to deliver more homes.

The report, Increasing Diversity in the House Building Sector (Pdf), argues that smaller house builders can offer more energy efficient and “locally-focused” homes. It says planning authorities should consider reducing the amount of information needed for application submissions for developments of under ten homes on brownfield land.

“This fast track mechanism would reduce risk in the planning process on appropriate small scale brownfield sites and would help increase the number of dwellings delivered by small and medium sized house builders,” the report says.

The CPRE says that smaller firms are less able to meet the significant costs of planning application fees, professional fees to acquire the complex information needed to submit applications, and that the uncertainty of achieving permission can make an application too risky.

“Obtaining planning permission for small scale residential development is uncertain and even outline permission requires a very detailed level of information to be submitted with applications,” the report says. “This information can be expensive to acquire and often relies on the knowledge of external consultants. The current system of submitting applications is expensive and risky as there is no guarantee that the local authority will view the development proposal as acceptable.”

The report adds that expecting smaller firms to make the same level of contribution via section 106 agreements as larger builders can make developments economically unviable for smaller firms. Luke Burroughs, policy and research adviser at CPRE and report author, said: “Smaller builders have the potential to build houses to higher standards of energy efficiency and on smaller brownfield sites. If we provide smaller builders with better access to land and finance, we can enable them to reinvigorate the industry.”

The CPRE is also calling for obligatory identification of small brownfield plots for development, the provision of finance through an investment bank and government guarantees on money loans, and the introduction of design codes drawn up collaboratively by local stakeholders. According to the CPRE, smaller house builders were supplying 40 per cent of housing in 1995, but this has now halved to just 25 per cent.

It says that land banking and a reluctance of banks to lend to small businesses is holding back smaller house builders, and hampering attempts to reach housebuilding targets. The report says: “Volume house builders are generally better placed to have an extensive knowledge of the planning system and can therefore identify sites that are likely to be allocated for housing in the medium or long term and can even influence local planning authorities to allocate these sites.”