Thursday 7th January 2016
‘Land banking’ is a charge often levelled by politicians at developers and house builders. Today the body that represents local government, the LGA, has released statistics seeking to support their claims about the extent of the problem – as well as suggesting a way to force developers to build out their consented projects quicker.
But the house builders have hit back quickly and firmly. In response to the LGA’s claims, a representative of the house building sector – John Stewart from the Home Builders Federation – dismissed the idea that developers were guilty of slowing down supply, saying that “speeding up the rate at which permissions are granted” was one of the keys to “significant, sustainable” increases in house-building. “Too many sites are stuck in the planning system, with an estimated 150,000 plots awaiting full sign-off by local authorities,” he said.
The LGA claims that in 2014-15, approximately 475,000 homes in England that had received planning permission were not completed. An LGA spokesman described the large number of un-built, permissioned homes as a “bumper backlog” which has “grown at a rapid pace over the past few years”, increasing from 381,390 unimplemented planning permissions in 2012-13. These figures somewhat go against central government’s vocal assertion that reducing planning restrictions ‘get Britain building’ again.
In order to force developers to complete homes before their original permission expires and thus reduce the backlog, the LGA has now suggested that builders should be forced to pay full council tax on each uncompleted home, a proposal that will cause anger in the house building sector.
The announcement comes at a time when local authorities are under ever-growing pressure from central government to get more homes built, and appears to represent an attempt to prove that they, and the planning system, are not the problem. But highlighting another perspective on the debate, Peter Box, the LGA’s Housing spokesman, said: “skills is the greatest barrier to building, not planning.” He continued: “Councils must be given a leading role to tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building.”