The Home Builders Federation, the body that says it is “the voice of the home building industry, representing member interests on a national and regional level” is moaning yet again, about the planning system ‘delaying’ the delivery of new homes.
The latest whinge is regarding the conditions that are attached to planning approvals. The HBF claim, that Local Authorities are threatening to choke of the recovery in house building with red tape, with the more onerous conditions causing costly delays, sometimes of a year or more.
The current policy to drive and facilitate an increase in the number of new homes being built has resulted in a 26% increase planning applications approved for new homes (77,686) so far this year, coming after the government instructed a relaxation of existing planning rules. The HBF estimate that this would indicate an annual increase in the number of new homes being built to 156,608, 34% up from the low of 2011. But this is apparently not enough for the house builders, represented by the HBF, who are claiming that many of their members must work through and deal with more than 100 conditions before work can start on site.
Only last week, Redrow CEO Steve Morgan claimed a “bureaucratic mess” of an “antiquated planning system” was the main cause of the housing shortage. When reporting a 65% increase in his company’ s profit for the year ending 30 June 2013, Morgan took the opportunity to bemoan the number of conditions attached to planning approvals claiming the planning system needs to be streamlined even further, saying:
“We had one site in the north west, we built several hundred houses a few years ago and had nine conditions, We just had a site on the opposite side of the road recommended for approval with 103 conditions. They just take such a long time to clear these conditions before you can start.”
House builders are becoming like farmers. Whatever help they are given by government and local authorities they are never happy. Always complaining and demanding even more done to help an industry that is currently being heavily subsidised by the British taxpayer, in which most companies have already reported profit increases this year of up to 74%. Housebuilders are sitting on a combined landbank of over 400,000 plots that have planning permission and have yet to be started.
However planning conditions do not necessarily delay work starting on site as house builders have been known to just ignore them and progress their works regardless. On a Barratt development in West Sussex, construction work started on the four show homes despite this planning condition:
6) No development shall commence until the Section 278 vehicular access serving the development has been constructed in accordance with the approved planning drawing
Reason: In the interests of road safety.”
Apparently, the County Council highways department had caused delays in granting the licence for the Section 278 works. Yet despite the District Council Planning Enforcement Department being fully aware that this planning condition was being ignored, no enforcement action at all was taken to stop work on site. Even though this condition being “in the interests of road safety” work was allowed to continue by the planners for over eight weeks before the construction of the vehicular access even started!