A recently published report by Civitas: ‘Planning approvals vs Housebuilding activity, 2006-2015’ has found that of the 2,035,835 new homes granted permission by local authorities over the period only 1,261,350 have been started.
The report concludes that this huge shortfall has accumulated because house-builders and developers are hoarding permissions in order to push up house prices and profits and that “the key to building many more homes does not lie in increasing the number of permissions which are granted each year – but in ensuring that those permissions which are granted are built out much more quickly”.
House-builders will adjust and if necessary reduce build rates in order to maintain profitably, as they did during the recent recession and related financial crisis. They are under no regulatory obligation either to meet Inspector Salter’s arbitrary and imposed interim target of 800 houses pa or keep to the Council’s forward five year-supply trajectory.
Yet in spite of this reality, because of the present planning regime it would be Horsham District Council, not house-builders who would be blamed and held to account by the Government and the Planning Inspectorate, should house-builders choose to reduce build rates in order to maintain profit margins - and the District’s five year requirement not be met in consequence.
In which eventuality, the HDPF would be deemed to be out of date thereby enabling developers to disregard emerging Neighbourhood Plans and gain at Appeal yet more permissions for unallocated greenfield sites.
According to news media, MPs have promised a parliamentary inquiry into whether developers should be forced to build on plots once planning permission has been granted. However, with a government seemingly enthralled to developers, is this likely?
Dr R F Smith
For CPRE Sussex (Horsham District), Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield
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