Letwin report urges property diversity to boost build out rates

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build out rates
© Bagwold

Sir Oliver Letwin’s report into build out rates has suggested that a new set of planning rules should be produced for sites with more than 1,500 homes to speed up property building

The new rules would require developers to build a wider range of properties with different designs and tenures, to speed up build out rates.

In his interim report, Sir Oliver said he could not find “any evidence” that major developers are “holding land as a purely speculative activity” – and their business models instead rely on selling houses.

Instead, having too many identical properties on large sites – and the limits on how quickly these can be sold – is the primary reason behind the slow build out rate.

The government will now consider the report into the build out rate of large sites before deciding on next steps.

Sir Oliver recommends that by adopting the measures in his report it will help government towards their target of delivering 300,000 homes a year.

In his final report, he calls for:

  • new planning rules which require homebuilders to offer a range of different types of properties on big sites, so they can be completed more quickly without “flooding” the market with a large number of identical properties
  • a new National Expert Committee to be set up to advise councils on the different types of properties that should be offered on large sites
  • incentives for homebuilders to change plans for existing sites so they start offering a variety of property types immediately
  • councils to be given a more power in guiding major homebuilding projects.

Responding to the final report, John Acres, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “The recommendations Sir Oliver is making today reflect a full grasp of the fact that untrammelled market forces alone have not been delivering enough homes and will not deliver what the people need, and signal a much overdue strengthening of public sector planning. They follow an intensive year of evidence gathering on an impressive scale involving the RTPI closely at many stages.

“The Review echoes the Institute’s key concern that the delivery role of the public sector has been limited in recent years to responding to private sector proposals. The Review’s recommendations to change this by giving enhanced powers for local authorities to achieve proactive development is very welcome.

“We also support his core proposal that sites need greater diversity in home type and tenure, but believe this needs to be extended across a much wider section of the housing market, not only to very large sites in the remit of this Review. The concept of a National Expert Committee is a novel and potentially useful one, and we welcome Sir Oliver’s suggestion that at least one of its members should be a chartered town planner. The expected role of the Committee in pre-application is vital to avoid holding up planning appeals.”

Hugh Ellis, Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA) interim chief exec, said:  “The TCPA welcomes Sir Oliver Letwin’s recognition of the role of the public sector in leading housing delivery. We are, however, disappointed that it hasn’t dealt with some crucial barriers to delivery such as hope value and the compensation code.”

“Extension of permitted development is a mistake. The evidence is clear that it leads to poor outcomes for people, and extending this will only make things worse.”

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