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Survey says planning red tape prevents house building

Words: Laura Edgar

Land availability and red tape surrounding the planning process are the biggest barriers to meeting the housing demand, according to the results of a survey.

Homes For All 2015: Building Britain was conducted by accountancy and business advisory company BDO. The company surveyed decision-makers from private residential housing developers and housing associations about the housing shortage in the UK.

The survey reveals that 96 per cent of respondents agree that the demand for housing is going to increase - and 94 per cent are worried that the industry cannot meet the increasing demand for housing in the next two years.

Of those asked, 94 per cent are not optimistic about the number of homes being built to meet the demand. Building Britain says the biggest barrier to meeting demand for housing is the red tape surrounding the planning process - both house builders and housing associations want mandatory response times for planners to reduce delays.

Although there was a 21 per cent increase in the number of housing units approved between Q1 and Q3 in 2014, the number of sites approved is failing to keep up with demand, demonstrating “how vital it is to free up the estimated 150,000 plots still at outline permission stage”, says the survey. To combat this, it suggests that house builders and housing associations would like surplus land released by the government.

By introducing mandatory response times and government releasing surplus land, 16 per cent of house builders believe they could increase the number of houses built by 10 per cent while 89.6 per cent of all those asked believed they would be able to increase house building by over 10 per cent.

Philip Rego, national head of social housing at BDO LLP, said: “Bringing housing supply and demand into balance has to be a priority for the next government. More housing of all types is needed, especially affordable housing, and the social housing sector is well positioned to play its part, but only in an environment where planning and the release of surplus land by government are no longer the common barriers."

However, Richard Blyth, head of policy, practice and research at the RTPI, said: “There are a range of factors needed to get the housing crisis sorted. These include ensuring homes are in the right places and are supported by infrastructure as we have set out in our policy paper of 2013. And a critical point is to staunch the haemorrhaging of funding from local authority planning departments.”

The survey also found that only 29 per cent of those asked thought that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is helping the delivery of new homes.

Additionally, 52.1 per cent say it has made no difference, with 18.8 per cent feeling the process “has been inhibited by the introduction of the framework”.

In Building Britain, John Baird, partner at Osborne Clarke, said that while there had been a “radical reform” of the planning system, “this survey indicates the changes have not brought about the improvements in planning performance that were expected and needed.”

While improving the process is welcome, it must be done in an “effective manner and supported by appropriate resource”.

“Otherwise the planning system will not be able to deliver the development required to meet housing targets and there is a risk that the balance that the planning system is intended to uphold will be overridden by politically driven unsuitable and inappropriate development,” Baird concluded.