Government urged to act as 400,000 homes remain unbuilt
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Development, Local Government
Almost 400,000 homes in England have been granted planning permission but remain unbuilt, new research has revealed.
With the country in the grip of a housing crisis, the study, carried out by Glenigan on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA), shows that the backlog on homes with planning permission that are yet to reach the development stage was reduced by just 6,000 last year.
The LGA, which represents over 350 councils in England, has now said that the government must remove restrictions on council investment in housing to ease the problem, rather than “meddling” with the planning system.
The research also found that developers are putting in fewer planning applications and taking longer to complete work on site.
The study revealed that:
- On average, it currently takes 27 months between sites gaining planning permission to building being completed – seven months longer than in 2007/8.
- Councils approve almost nine in every 10 planning applications they receive.
- The number of planning applications fell 5% last year.
- Thousands of “shovel-ready” sites could be kick-started into action if a Treasury imposed cap on the amount councils can invest in new housing was lifted.
Recent research showed that councils could build up to 60,000 additional new homes over the next five years if they were allowed to invest in housing against normal borrowing guidelines. This would create jobs, boost gross domestic product by 0.6% and reduce the housing benefit bill, the LGA claims.
Councilllor Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA's environment and housing board, said: "The bumper backlog of unbuilt homes and drop in the number of planning applications submitted to councils last year is a worrying sign that the housing market is not yet on the road to long-term recovery.
"While there has been progress made, this risks being undermined if we do not find a way to ensure developers keep up with demand.
"These figures conclusively show that it is not the planning system holding back the building of much-needed new homes.
"Councils are approving nine in every 10 planning applications we receive and we know that there has been an increase in the numbers of first-time buyers getting mortgages.
"The challenge now lies in actually getting houses built. Government schemes to help buyers access finance risk creating a bubble if there isn't an increase house building to match it
"Government has an unrivalled opportunity to create jobs, provide tens of thousands of homes and help the economy without having to find a single extra penny. New homes are badly-needed and councils want to get on with building them. The common sense answer is for the Treasury to remove its housebuilding block and let us get on with it."
However, housing minister Mark Prisk disputed the research. He said: “The LGA’s figures are out of date and therefore misleading. Actually only around 60,000 houses with planning permission are currently stalled.
“We’ve just reformed the way the system [council borrowing for housing] works . I’m always open to bright ideas. We are working with housing associations and the private sector to solve the problem.”