Planning permissions for new housing at their highest since 2008, says pipeline report

Planning permissions granted for new housing have hit their highest level since 2008, according to the latest Housing Pipeline report from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and Glenigan’s.

The figures show that planning permission for 59,875 homes was granted in England during the third quarter of last year, up from 53,409 permissions in the corresponding quarter the previous year.

Furthermore, the report shows that 242,819 permissions were granted in the 12 months to October. This is the highest ‘moving annual’ total since early 2008.

However, the HBF said that many of the homes identified in the report still have a significant part of the planning system to navigate before any construction work can start, a process that could still take two or three years.

Over the past two years housing output has increased significantly. The latest figures show that there were over 181,000 new homes built in 2014/15 – up 22% on the previous year. This broadly equates to the volume of planning permissions recorded some two to three years ago. However, the industry remains concerned that the ‘lag’ of turning permissions into homes is becoming lengthier.

Proposals announced by the Government to introduce competition into the planning process and ‘fast-track’ approvals could eventually lead to improvements, the organisation said.

Incentivising local authorities to ensure their planning departments have sufficient capacity to deal with an increased volume of applications in a timely manner would play a big part in speeding up the process. Efficient planning 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, the organisation said, but added that it now needs to see the detail developed and the measures implemented as soon as is possible.

“The house building industry has delivered an unprecedented increase in build rates over the past two years. The largest companies have increased their output by around 50% with overall housing numbers now up to around 180,000 a year,” said Stewart Baseley, the HBF’s executive chairman.

“The industry’s ability to increase output still further will largely be dictated by the rate at which planning permissions are granted. Whilst the overall increase in outline permissions is welcome, most of these still have to navigate the complexities of the planning system before they can be built. It is imperative we speed up the time it takes for applications to be processed to the point that builders can actually build if we are to deliver further increases in housing supply.

“Introducing competition into the planning process and finding a way to incentivise local authorities to deal with applications more quickly would be a welcome step in the right direction.

Glenigan’s economics director, Allan Wilén added: “Planning approvals strengthened in the third quarter, as private sector developers bring forward more and larger sites than a year ago. Glenigan expect the expanding development pipeline to feed through to a rise in project starts during the current year.”

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