Housebuilders call for ban on ‘spurious’ council planning conditions

New homes are being delayed because of excessive requirements in the planning system, and ‘spurious’ council conditions, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has warned.

According to the HBF’s latest Housing Pipeline report, planning permission for 289,011 homes was granted in the 12 months from September 2015-16, the highest since the survey began since 2006.

Despite the record high, few of those homes can currently be built, as permission is only recorded once housebuilders meet one of the pre-commencement conditions attached to them by the local authorities. Many developments have dozens of conditions attached, so builders are not legally be entitled to commence construction until they are all discharged.

Stewart Baseley, executive chair of the HBF, said: “The housebuilding industry is committed to building more homes but can only do so if it has the land on which to build them.

“It is encouraging that so many headline planning permissions are being granted but we simply have to find a way to unblock the system and reduce the time it takes to get a permission to the stage where builders can actually start building.”

The HBF also published examples of developments being held back by strict pre-commencement conditions.

In one case, builders of a 1,400 home development were required to submit a detailed plan of the proposed playground. Other councils required a statement from the developer on plans for public art in the development, approval of all building materials used, and a survey on great crested newts despite existing evidence showing that there were none in the area.

The existing Neighbourhood Planning Bill will introduce a new process for agreeing pre-commencement conditions, but the HBF called on the government to go further by introducing a maximum number of conditions and banning ‘spurious’ council requirements.

The final report from the LGA’s own Housing Commission argued that councils should be allowed to return to their role of building houses directly in order to address the housing crisis.

The HBF also found that the number of sites where permissions were granted had fallen. It argued that this suggested local authorities were granting planning permission for large strategic sites, and urged it to deliver housing on a mix of different sites instead.

The Housing Pipeline report also showed that the growth in planning permissions was driven by private housing. While the number of private housing projects approved in Q3 of 2016 was 10% higher than the same point last year, social housing projects were down by 21%.

Planning permissions rose in London, the South East, Wales and the North West, but fell in the North East, Scotland, the West Midlands and the East of England.

Responding to a recent Chartered Institute of Housing survey, 94% of social housing providers said that they believed that current government housing policies, such as the Right to Buy extension, would put them at risk.

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