Councils want power to push developers on 420,000 unbuilt homes

Councils have warned that more than 420,000 homes in England are still waiting to be built despite planning permission already being granted.

The figures have risen since last year, with 60,000 more approved homes ready to be started.

LGA officials said the numbers show that councils need to be given greater power to deal with developers which leave plots unbuilt.

The news comes despite the government’s pledge to begin building 300,000 homes each year by the end of this term.

LGA housing spokesman, Cllr Martin Tett, said councils were already doing their part, approving 9 in 10 planning applications and increasing the total number of approvals by more than 100,000 since last year.

“No-one can live in a planning permission,” he commented. “Councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.”

Tett also took aim at the government’s local government borrowing policies, which the LGA has repeatedly disputed.

He said that councils need the power to borrow more money to kickstart their own building projects, adding to calls by the Treasury Select Committee which said last month that the government should lift the Housing Revenue Account cap.

“Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face,” Tett added.

“While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000-housebuilding target set by the government on their own.

“We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

The issue is particularly challenging as councils continue to point to rising numbers of homes sold through Right to Buy (RTB) schemes.

Figures released in December last year prompted the LGA to call for 100% retention of receipts from RTB sales, with the money to be spent on building new homes.

However, while there was an overall increase in funding for councils announced earlier this month as part of the local government finance settlement, housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid did indicate that he had put aside £950m this year to be used as part of the New Homes Bonus, a payment given to councils to allow new developments to be built.

Today also marks the announcement of the government’s Land Release Fund, which will offer £45m of split funding to facilitate the construction of 7,200 new houses by councils.

The fund focuses on allowing authorities to construct new infrastructure and utilities, which will make more developments possible.

“It’s part of our strategy to build the homes Britain needs, and carry local communities with us,” commented housing and planning minister Dominic Raab.

“We’re determined to make buying or renting more affordable for young families and those on low or middle incomes.”

Top image: Duncan Andison

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