The Local Government Association (LGA) has found that there are over 423,000 homes with planning permission in place that are still waiting to be built in Wales and England. The new research, carried out by Glenigan, showed that this figure has grown by almost 16% in the last year.
In 2015/16, the total number of unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales was 365,146, rising to 423,544 in 2016/17. Interestingly, the figures point to the average build taking 40 months from receiving planning to completion, which is eight months longer than in 2013/14.
The report demonstrated that it was not the planning system that was limiting the number of homes being built, with nine out of every 10 applications being granted permission to build. In fact, granted planning applications for new homes went up from 204,989 in 2015/16 to 321,202 in 2016/17.
The LGA commented that the findings about the backlog supported its call for local authorities to be granted greater powers to take action on developers sitting on un-built land with planning permission in place.
To do this it called for powers to enable councils to act on schemes that had failed to be built out. These should include measures such as compulsory purchase of the land where homes remain unbuilt, or for councils to be able to collect full council tax from the unbuilt homes, from the point the original planning permission expires.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils, also called for an end to the borrowing cap on council borrowing that limits local authority house building.
This supported the Treasury Committee, which recently published a report that called for the removal of the borrowing cap to support the Government with its target of 300,000 homes a year. This would enable councils to build additional affordable homes, at pace.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said: “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building. In fact the opposite is true. In the last year, councils and their communities granted twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed.
“No-one can live in a planning permission. Councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.
“To tackle the new homes backlog and to get the country building again, councils also need the freedom to borrow and invest in desperately-needed new homes, as recognised by the influential Treasury Select Committee last month.
“Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. 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.”
This research points to the lifting of the borrowing cap for councils, and the building work that this could enable. And it is to be hoped that councils bringing on homes would look at the wider areas of affordability and diversity, which could include custom build as a way of delivering this. Beechwood West in Basildon already exists as an example of a large-scale custom build site being created by Swan Housing Association, proving that it can work.