Head of the land banking review Sir Oliver Letwin has committed to seeking “practical, non-partisan recommendations” to accelerate housebuilding
The head of the land banking review says the government is “serious” about tackling a slowdown in housing delivery – despite caution from the construction sector as to what the inquiry is expected to achieve.
Announced at the Autumn Budget, the review is to examine the apparent discrepancy between the number of housing planning permissions being granted against those built in areas of high demand – a discrepancy that runs into the hundreds of thousands.
Currently, after planning permission is granted a variety of factors can prevent development from starting and slow down delivery and the review aims to determine why.
As of July 2016, just over half the 684,000 homes with planning permission had been completed.
The land banking review will seek to identify the main causes of the gap and will make recommendations on practical steps to increase the speed of build-out.
Latest evidence has highlighted that residential planning applications are up, whilst the time it takes to process major applications continues to be at a record high.
Letwin 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.”
The land banking review will proceed in two phases:
Phase 1 – 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, which will be published in the full report.
The review will also consider how to avoid interventions which might discourage housebuilding or hinder the regeneration of complex sites.
Throughout this, Letwin will be assisted by:
- Richard Ehrman – author, small commercial property developer and former journalist. Former special adviser to the Secretary of State for Employment and subsequently Northern Ireland, onetime Chief Leader Writer of the Daily Telegraph, and former Deputy Chairman of Policy Exchange
- Lord Jitesh Gadhia – Member of House of Lords and investment banker
- Lord John Hutton – (Labour) Peer and former Secretary of State
- Rt Hon Baroness Usha Prashar CBE, PC – (Crossbench) Peer with a career spanning public, not for profit and private sectors, currently Deputy Chairman, British Council and a non-Executive Director of Nationwide Building Society
- Christine Whitehead – Emeritus Professor of Housing Economics at London School of Economics.
The construction sector has voiced concerns regarding the intentions of the review.
Stewart Baseley, chief executive of the Home Builders Federation (HBF) – has said he, too, wanted to see who was ‘land banking’.
Critics also called on the government to examine its own records over the disposal of public land and the need for cross-ministry incentive to increase the availability of sites for housing.