Planning cuts make housing targets impossible, says FMB

A joint research report form the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has found that nearly 90% of local authorities believe that the Government’s housing targets will be impossible to meet due to a lack of planning resources. The report draws upon the experience of both local authorities and SME house builders from right across the UK and also found that:

  • 64% of builders and 45% of local authorities see lack of planning resources as a barrier to developing more small sites
  • More than half of councils deliver fewer than 40% of homes on small sites
  • Builders and local authorities call for councils to be allowed to raise planning application fees

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The Government aim to build one million new homes by 2020 won’t be realised unless more SME housebuilders can enter the housing market. That’s why the barriers that SME house builders currently face need to be removed. 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.”

Berry concluded: “Planning departments need a cash injection and we therefore urge the 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. The 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.”