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Sat, 4 February 2023

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By Dr Simon Kaye
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Enhancing local authority powers can rebalance housebuilding sector, say countryside campaigners

CPRE | Campaign to Protect Rural England

3 min read Partner content

CPRE paper finds nine largest housing developers have 314,000 housing plots in strategic land banks.

A new research paper from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), published today, argues that giving local authorities greater powers could greatly increase the number of suitable housing sites being brought forward for development.

The paper, Getting houses built, argues that the focus on profitability within the current housebuilding sector, dominated by a small number of volume builders, is dictating supply but not meeting need. This focus has adversely affected the location and build-out rates of new housing. Greenfield land is being targeted for its ease and lower risk, while suitable brownfield land nearby remains unused and too few affordable homes are built.

In analysing the sector, the report finds that the nine largest volume housebuilders have long-term strategic land banks of 314,000 housing plots [2]. CPRE acknowledges that private developers have a duty to their shareholders over national housing targets, but this figure indicates the need to reform the current system to accelerate the supply of homes in the right places.

Following the recent Government announcements on the Right to Build and a new register of brownfield sites, the paper suggests a number of options that could empower local authorities to accelerate house building. It suggests that authorities could be given ‘use it or lose it’ measures if permissioned land is not developed quickly; that authorities could learn from European land acquisition models and use reformed Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to acquire land suitable for housing at existing use value; and that authorities could levy council tax on housing that is unfinished two years after the granting of planning permission.

In further recommendations, the paper suggests that smaller sites, often on brownfield land, must be more regularly identified, as currently just eight per cent of sites securing planning permission are smaller developments. All land (including that held ‘in option’, or strategic banks) should also be compulsorily registered.

Getting houses built is the fourth paper in the Housing Foresight series for CPRE.

Luke Burroughs, author and research and policy advisor at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“The need for volume builders to seek high levels of profitability limits the amount of new housing. It also delays the delivery of new houses and increases the likelihood of new housing being built in less suitable locations. Large scale greenfield sites are forced through the planning system with new housing slowly drip-fed onto the market, while suitable brownfield land remains undeveloped. This leaves our countryside under threat and urban areas in need of regeneration.

“If we are to reach targets of 200,000 homes per annum or more, local authorities must be empowered in the development process. Improving transparency in land ownership and viability assessments would greatly boost residential development. Local authorities can also help small-scale builders develop suitable smaller sites by doing more to identify and earmark these sites for development.”

Read the most recent article written by CPRE - CPRE comments on the Housing Bill

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