Housing targets impossible, say 90% of councils
Nearly 90% of local authorities believe that the government’s housing targets will be impossible to meet due to a lack of planning resources, according to a new joint research report from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).
The report, which is the first of its kind to draw upon the experience of both local authorities and SME house builders from right across the UK, also found that:
- 64% of builders and 45% of local authorities see lack of planning resources as a barrier to developing more small sites;
- More than half of councils deliver fewer than 40% of homes on small sites;
One of the reports recommendations is for councils to be allowed to raise planning application fees.
The report, Small is beautiful – delivering more homes through small sites, draws together evidence from surveys of 91 local authority officials and elected members and 108 SME house builders, roundtable discussions involving both groups, and a series of interviews with planning officers.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The government aim to build one million new homes by 2020 won’t be realised unless more SME housebuilders can enter the housing market. That’s why the barriers that SME house builders currently face need to be removed.
“We know that the availability of suitable small sites and the difficulty getting planning permission on them are two of the biggest barriers these firms face.
“In this research, both local authorities and SME builders identify under-resourcing as a key barrier to allocating more small sites and getting planning permissions in place on them. Too often small sites are dealt with entirely by inexperienced officers. There simply aren’t enough senior and experienced planners to make the system work effectively.”
Berry concluded: “Planning departments need a cash injection and we therefore urge the Government to take on board concerns shared by both builders and councils and to allow local authorities the power to increase planning fees.
“Most small local developers are so concerned by the level of service provided by resource-stripped planning departments, they would be happy to foot the bill, provided the raised fees are ring-fenced and result in an improved service.”
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “There is a large untapped potential in small sites, but resource and capacity pressures in planning departments make it difficult to unlock. We need new approaches and new partnerships to build the homes we need. By working with a wider range of local builders, councils can stimulate local economic growth, while providing jobs and training for young people in the area.”