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Lack of planning resources make housing targets impossible - report

Federation of Master Builders

4 min read Partner content

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has jointly released a report warning the Government is not set to meet its housing target.

The Government’s housing targets will be impossible to meet due to a lack of planning resources, nearly 90% of local authorities believe according to a new joint research report from the FMB and LGiU.


The Government has set the target of delivering one million homes before 2020.


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, found that  64% of builders and 45% of local authorities see lack of planning resources as a barrier to developing more small sites.


The report found there was a disparity between SME builders’ desire to see more small sites allocated and the resource and time implications for local authorities in identifying and allocating small sites.


It also found that more than half of councils deliver fewer than 40% of homes on small sites.


Elsewhere in the report, builders and local authorities called for councils to be allowed to raise planning application fees.


The report revealed there is a clear tension over how the planning system is applied to small sites, particularly when they come forward as windfall applications. Small developers feel that the process is often too rigid and that uncertainty and delays can make small sites disproportionately difficult.


It urged local authorities to attempt to minimise uncertainty and complexity in the application process.


Chief Executive of the FMB Brian Berry said: “The Government wants to build one million new homes by 2020, but we will struggle to reach this target as long as we are overly reliant on a handful of large house builders to build our homes. That’s why it’s crucial that we remove barriers to SME house builders and attract more of these firms into the market.


“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.”


Mr Berry concluded: “Planning departments need a cash injection and we therefore urge Central 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. Central Government deserves some credit for the priority it is now placing on house building, but unless planning departments have enough experienced planners on the ground, our housing targets will be nothing more than aspirational.”


Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, 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.”

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