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Calls to boost housebuilding

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: September 13, 2012

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Figures released this week in the Home Builders Federation's (HBF) latest Housing Pipeline report reveal that approvals for house building are down.

Approvals were given for 24,872 homes across England in the second quarter of this year, a significant fall on the previous quarter (36,761) and on the same period last year (25,171).

The number of permissions granted in the second quarter of 2012, the first quarter since the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force in March, was the lowest number of housing permission granted in England since 2009, and well under half the level (55,466) granted in the same quarter in 2007.

To meet the officially projected need, 60,000 homes per quarter should be being built in England. The HBF says that while the prevailing economic conditions and a lack of mortgage availability remain the largest short-term constraints on home building, planning remains the most serious long term constraint

The NPPF replaced the old "top down" planning system of housing targets and handed much more power to local authorities for housing delivery. The HBF says that at a time when the Government is looking for ways to increase supply and drive economic growth through housing construction the new figures are a huge wake-up call and clearly demonstrate why it must ensure local authorities meet their responsibilities under the new system.

Planning permissions granted now will, in the main, mean the properties will be built over the next three or four years. At a time when fewer homes are being built in England than at any time since the 1920s – just over 100,000 a year compared to a projected household requirement for 240,000, on top of the historic shortfall – the HBF says the figures reveal how the current position is intensifying the country's housing crisis.

The statistics also demonstrate why developers need adequate stocks of permissioned land. Given the extensive delays and uncertainties in the planning system, and time it takes to build and sell the homes on a development, home builders need several years' stocks of permissioned land to be able to properly manage and plan their businesses.

Building the additional 140,000 homes a year that are needed to meet demand would also give the economy a huge boost. Every home built creates 1.5 full-time construction jobs and potentially twice as many again in the supply chain.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: "Under the new planning system local authorities have much more power over what is built in their area. But with that power comes a responsibility to provide the housing their communities need. Government needs to ensure that councils are meeting this responsibility. Ministers have in the past year unveiled some very positive measures aimed at boosting housing supply, particularly the NewBuy scheme, but they cannot succeed unless we have a truly pro-growth planning system. "

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