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More than a million homes waiting to be built, suggests analysis

Words: Laura Edgar
New homes / iStock: 181857721

Analysis suggests that there are at least 1.1 million homes in England with planning permission that have yet to be built.

In response to its research findings, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to legislate in the forthcoming planning bill for councils to be given powers to incentivise developers to build housing more quickly.

The planning bill is expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech (11 May).

Using Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) data, the LGA says 2,782,300 homes have been granted planning permission by councils since 2010/11. However, over that period, only 1,627,730 have been built.

Also, since 2010, the number of homes approved has “more than doubled”. Councils are approving nine in 10 planning applications.


Savanta ComRes – on behalf of the LGA – polled MPs between 9 November 2020 and 13 January 2021, and  peers between 2 November 2020 and 4 February 2021. The poll found that 80 per cent of MPs and 88 per cent of peers think councils should have more financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.

The LGA acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons why some development stalls and that there is a time lag between approval and homes being built. But, new-build completions have increased by just over half as much in that time.

This shows, says the LGA, that planning is not the barrier to housebuilding. Rather, it is the housing delivery system that needs to be reformed.

Although developers are completing homes at the highest level in the past 10 years, with 220,600 built in 2019/20, the LGA points out that this is short of the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year.

To address this and to help councils to get developers to build out their permissions quicker, the LGA says the Queen’s Speech should include legislation that enables councils to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point the original planning permission expires.

The planning bill should also make it easier for councils to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire stalled housing sites or sites where developers do not build out to timescales contractually agreed with a local planning authority.

Building more council homes would help to tackle the housing crisis and meeting the government’s housing target, insists the LGA. Councils should be given powers to start a social housebuilding programme of 100,000 homes a year.

David Renard, housing spokesperson for LGA, said: “Councils are committed to working with government and developers to build the housing the country needs.

“It is good the number of homes built each year is increasing. But by giving councils the right powers to incentivise developers to get building once planning permission has been granted, we can go further and faster.

“Councils are granting permission for hundreds of thousands of homes but families who desperately need housing cannot live in a planning permission.

“This is why we need the Queen’s Speech to deliver the reform needed to enable councils to tackle the housing crisis.”

Read more:

Research: More than a million approved homes not built

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