Housing sites with planning permission down 11%

SITES with planning permission for house building fell by 11 per cent last year as councils focused their stretched resources on larger sites, according to new research.

The Home Builders Federation said permission was granted for 293,127 new homes in 2016, the highest annual total since its Housing Pipeline survey began in 2006.

However, despite local authorities increasing the number of home permissions granted, the number of sites with permission fell from 19,600 in 2015 to 17,500, indicating permissions are increasingly concentrated on larger “strategic” sites. While the number of plots securing permission has surpassed its pre-crash peak by around 15 per cent, the number of sites on which those homes could eventually be built is down by more than 10 per cent.   

The size of the average site with permission has increased by 16 per cent over the last 18 months. The HBF said local authorities are focusing their “ever-stretched” resources on larger sites, but this means SMEs, which the federation forecasts could deliver 25,000 homes a year, are struggling to find land to develop.

It added that the infrastructure requirements of larger sites means it generally takes longer for delivery and local authorities must be “realistic” in not relying on a single large development to meet their housing requirements.

The federation noted that while housing supply has risen by 52 per cent in the past three years, it is still falling short of the levels needed to meet demand, and the planning system remains a major hurdle. It said the number of permissions granted tends to be reflected in housing completions around three to four years later, indicating the time taken to navigate the planning system from initial outline planning permission to work starting on site. 

“The drop in the number of sites on which the permissions are being granted is concerning,” said Stewart Baseley, the HBF’s executive chairman.

“As the [Housing] White Paper indicates, we need to ensure that permissions are granted on a mix of site sizes and that local authorities are not reliant on one or two large sites. A mix of site sizes will better ensure a flow of housing completions and also enable SME builders to play their part in delivering new homes.”