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  5. 1 September 2011
  6. War of words over residential development

War of words over residential development

A war of words has broken out over the latest quarterly figures for residential development permissions in England. These indicate that some 25,171 new homes were granted planning permission during the second three-months of 2011.

That figure represented the second lowest number of permissions granted in a quarter over the last five years, 24 per cent fewer than were granted in the first quarter of 2011 and 23 per cent fewer than were granted in the second quarter of 2010.

The data was published by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) in the organisation’s most recent Housing Pipeline report.

According to HBF, who commissioned the data from Glenigan, the figures underlined the need for the Government’s planning reforms.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: "These new figures paint a bleak picture. We already have an acute housing crisis that is affecting the quality of life of families, young and old, across the country and the economy. Today's extremely low levels of permissions will only make things worse in the short term.

"The figures clearly reveal that while the debate about planning is currently being hijacked by irresponsible scaremongering from anti-growth groups our housing crisis is set to worsen.

"Government must stand firm and deliver a planning system that supports home building and economic growth. If it doesn't, the social and economic implications will be felt for generations.”

But the planning officer for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Kate Houghton, said: “The cynical attempt by the volume house builders to blame the planning system for the drop in new builds and planning permissions over the last few years is astonishing.

“This is not due to the effect of long standing planning regulations, but a direct result of the house building industry choosing not to build new houses that they will not be able to sell in a stagnant property market.

“This is highlighted by the fact that England’s major house builders are currently sitting on huge land banks, with planning permission and ready for the development of over 280,000 new homes.”

In a separate but related development, a new report commissioned by the National Housing Federation has warned that home ownership in England will slump to just 63.8 per cent over the next decade - the lowest level since the mid 1980s.

The Federation warned the housing market will be plunged into an unprecedented crisis with steep rises in the private rental sector, huge social housing waiting lists, and a house price boom – all fuelled by a chronic under-supply of homes.

Meanwhile, led by the British Property Federation, business leaders from across the property industry have urged the PM to stand firm over reforms to the planning system.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, some 15 chief executives from some of the biggest names in property have hit back at claims that the reforms will destroy England’s countryside and lead to Los Angeles-style urban sprawl across the Green Belt.

They point out that some critics have misunderstood the fundamental point of the changes proposed in the draft NPPF – that councils and not developers will have the final say over development proposals, and that the changes do not change the way that the Green Belt and other protected sites are safeguarded.

Harry Cotterell, deputy president of the Countryside Land Association, said: “The planning system is currently failing to provide either the jobs or housing the countryside desperately needs for its survival. The draft NPPF provides a streamlined and less bureaucratic way of achieving economic and social success, while at the same time protecting the needs of the environment.”

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has stressed that the proposed New Homes Bonus will incentivise councils to approve more new homes.

He added: "But we also need to get Britain building again. That's why I've announced plans to release thousands of acres of public land for house building.

“And despite the need to tackle the deficit we inherited, this Government is putting £4.5bn towards an affordable homes programme which is set to exceed our original expectations and deliver up to 170,000 new homes over the next four years."

Roger Milne

1 September 2011