New home planning permissions hit 200,000 mark

Figures released today in Home Builders Federation (HBF) and Glenigan’s latest Housing Pipeline report show that planning permissions for 52,167 homes were granted in England during the first quarter of this year, a 19% increase on the 43,926 permissions in the corresponding quarter last year.

As a result the Moving Annual Total has passed the 200,000 mark for the first time since early 2008.

As the country looks to increase housing supply from the very low levels of recent years the increased number of homes being planned is extremely welcome.

However, many of the homes identified in the report still have to navigate the remainder of the planning system, a process the report says 'take(s) far too long, delaying work starting on many of the sites'.

Since the introduction of the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme in 2013, housing output has increased significantly.

The planning process, however, remains a significant constraint on the industry’s ability to meet the higher levels of demand and deliver further increases in supply.

Measures announced by the Government in the Productivity Plan earlier this month – and this week’s Witten Ministerial Statement on planning - should help to both speed up the planning process and deliver further increases in the number of permissions being granted.

The success of the Government’s new commitment to achieving comprehensive coverage of local plans will be critical to sustaining increases in permissions and housing delivery.

The report outlines how 'local authorities must take responsibility and plan efficiently for the homes their residents need'. As it is believed this is the best way to ensure that local people have an early say in the future shape of their communities and are able to benefit from the wealth of social and economic benefits that house building brings with it.

Figures in the latest report show that 203,810 permissions were granted in the 12 months to April. This is the highest ‘four quarter’ total since early 2008. The number of permissions granted in Q1 was twice that in the corresponding quarter in both 2011 and 2012.

The report – which only measures permissions on sites of over 10 units - also shows that the number of sites consented has been fairly stable over the last 18 months, though at a higher level than previous four to five years. Increasing the number of sites on which house builders are selling homes is absolutely key to a sustained increase in actual build numbers as more sites mean more site outlets and more construction work, while also helping small and medium-sized house builders to acquire sites and expand output.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: “Since the Help to Buy scheme was introduced in 2013 house building activity has increased strongly. Private housing starts in 2014 were up nearly 40% on their pre-Help to Buy level in 2012. However we are still only building around half the number of new homes the country needs, and far fewer than in previous decades.

“One of the biggest constraints on the industry’s ability to meet the new level of demand and deliver further sustained increases in build rates is the planning process. How quickly we get more sites to the point where we can actually start to lay bricks will be a major influence on future house building levels.

“The headline announcements made in the Productivity Plan sound very positive. What is key is that the detail is now developed and the proposals implemented as soon as is possible.

“Increasing housing delivery will provide the high quality homes our next generation needs, support thousands of companies up and down the land and create tens of thousands of jobs.”

Glenigan’s economics director, Allan Wilén added, “Planning approvals remained firm during the first quarter, as private sector developers bring forward more and larger sites than a year ago. Glenigan expect the strengthening development pipeline to feed through to a rise in project starts during the second half of the year.”

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