Figures released in HBF and Glenigan’s latest Housing Pipeline March report show that permissions in principle for over 195,000 new homes in England were granted in 2014, up 12% on the previous year and 39% on 2012. The number of permissions for private homes was up 23%.
The homes identified in this latest report will, once they have navigated the remainder of the planning process, in the main be completed over the next 2-3 years. Over the past 18 months, house building activity has increased significantly, with figures released last month showing the number of new homes started in 2014 was up 36% on 2012. As demand for new homes continues to increase, due to improved consumer confidence and the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, existing sites are getting built out quicker and so builders are looking to get on to more new sites more quickly than before.
Whilst the increases are positive, they can only be translated into desperately needed new homes if local authorities ensure their planning departments have the capacity to process these permissions to the stage that they can actually be built. Too many sites are ‘stuck’ in the planning system, with an estimated 150,000 plots at ‘outline permission’ stage awaiting full sign off by local authorities. New government initiatives to introduce “deemed discharge” of conditions will greatly assist in making sure the planning system will not be a constraint on increased housing provision but the overall resourcing of planning departments is still a concern. Central and local government must prioritise proper resourcing of planning departments if authorities are to be able to efficiently process more applications.