26 May 2023

As the latest net migration figures reveal the UK reached 606,000 in 2022, our Director, Trevor Wells questions the impact on housing delivery…

“Although these figures are less than originally predicted, they are still a record for the UK and fall well above the (now scrapped) 2017 manifesto the government set out to bring annual net migration below 100,000. If the housing target remains at 300,000 new homes per year, which the UK is also a significant way off meeting, then how are we planning to bridge the gap without worsening the housing crisis and increasing homelessness?

“Urgent reform of our planning system is needed to rebalance resources, unblock the sheer volume of cases and enable faster decision-making.

“The planning departments at most local authorities are under resourced, their legal teams are similarly so and/or part time, and this is all adding to the increasingly slow process of obtaining planning permissions. There is simply not enough consented development land available in the market, so housebuilders are unable to meet the national demand for new homes. Even when you have planning permission, the discharge of planning conditions takes far too long, delaying the process even more. It is now sadly not uncommon for it to take 9 – 12 months to get a Section 106 Agreement approved by the requisite bodies on sites that have been approved at planning committee, and this cannot be right.

“It’s also important to debunk the myth that developer land banking is to blame for the housing shortfall. While every development site has its own challenges that may compound progress, the term land banking primarily occurs in my opinion because the planning process is lengthy and inefficient.

“As we collectively face a cost-of-living crisis, this increased demand for energy efficient new homes will only cause house prices to rise and the dream of home ownership becoming more unreachable. Local authorities must be held to account when it comes to new housing delivery. The reality is also that there is always huge opposition from locals to new development, and that seems to be taking precedent over giving priority to delivering an adequate supply of homes to help make them more affordable.

“Perhaps it is time for planning decisions to bypass the local political influence and be determined by a central impartial body, and at the point of a decision, all necessary legal agreements are signed simultaneously? The current system is simply not delivering, as can clearly be seen from the figures.”