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Government moves a step closer to full regulation of the industry

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Independent review to tackle barriers to building

Monday 22 January 2018

A panel of experts has been tasked with reviewing the gap between the number of planning permissions being granted, and those actually being built in areas of high demand.

Spearheaded by Sajid Javid MP under his new role as head of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the review aims to understand why hundreds of thousands of homes haven’t been built, despite having planning permission, and will try to address the shortfall in approved planning applications.

Originally announced during the Autumn Budget, the review, led by Sir Oliver Letwin will look to explain the gap between the number of planning permissions being granted against those being built in areas of high demand.

Currently, after planning permission is granted, a variety of factors can prevent development from starting and slow down delivery. As of July 2016, just over half the 684,000 homes with planning permission had been completed and the review wants to determine why.

The latest evidence shows that residential planning applications are up and that time to process major applications continues to be at a record high. The review will seek to identify the main causes of the gap and will make practical recommendations on how to increase the speed of build out.

The review will be conducted in 2 phases:

Phase 1 – (which is currently underway) will seek to identify the main causes of the gap by reviewing large housing sites where planning permission has already been granted. This will include information-gathering sessions with local authorities, developers, non-government organisations and others. Early findings will be published in the interim report.

Phase 2  – will make recommendations on practical steps to increase the speed of build out and consider how to avoid interventions which might discourage house building or hinder the regeneration of complex sites, which will be published in the full report.

The 2017 housing white paper set out how all parties in the development process need to play their part in speeding up new home delivery pitching a wide ranging approach to driving up build out of planning permissions. Steps already taken by the government include:

  • Tackling unnecessary delays caused by too many planning conditions
  • Streamlining the approach to conserving the habitat of protected species
  • Simplifying developer contributions
  • Ensuring greater transparency in planning permissions around the pace of delivery
  • Taking an applicant’s track record into account when considering whether to grant a permission
  • Speeding up and simplifying Compulsory Purchase Orders

Sir Oliver Letwin, Chairman of the Review Panel, said: "This government is serious about finding ways to increase the speed of build out as well as tackling the complicated issues surrounding it. That’s why we have set up this diverse panel to help me test my analysis and to make practical, non-partisan recommendations, as we look to increase housing supply that’s consistent with a stable UK housing market."

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid MP commented: "We are determined to build the homes this country needs, but currently there is still a significant gap between the number of planning permissions being granted and the number of homes built. This review is vital to helping us understand how we can build more homes quickly. All parties have a role to play in closing the gap and I look forward to receiving Sir Oliver’s findings."

Letwin will be assisted by a team of leading experts, including Richard Ehrman, author, small commercial property developer and former journalist, Lord Jitesh Gadhia, a member of House of Lords and investment banker, Lord John Hutton a Labour Peer and former Secretary of State, Baroness Usha Prashar, deputy chairman of the British Council and a non-executive director of the Nationwide Building Society and Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor of housing economics at the London School of Economics.