One in three housebuilders want ‘broken planning system’ fixed

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planning system, SME housebuilders
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One in three housebuilders want the ‘broken’ planning system fixed to boost construction activity, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the government’s consultation on the Planning White Paper

The FMB asked SME housebuilders what was the one thing that the government could do to help them reach pre-coronavirus levels of activity and one in three singled out reform of the planning system.

This figure emerges against a background of a marked decline in the number of small housebuilders. In the 1980s 40% of all new homes were built by SME housebuilders but that figure has now plunged to just 12%.

Ofsted-style rating system

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The government cannot reach its target of building 300,000 new homes a year without reversing the decline in SME housebuilders.

“To help bring more SMEs into the housing market the planning system needs to be quicker and more efficient.

“The introduction of an Ofsted-style rating system for local authority planning departments would help assist this aim.”

Berry added: “Land availability is another key issue for SME housebuilders. There are far too few small sites available for local housebuilders who typically build just a handful of new homes each year.

“To help make more small sites available Homes England should be ensuring public land disposals provide a greater proportion of small parcels of land aimed at small housebuilders.”

Other consultation responses

On the day that the consultation on the government’s Planning White Paper closes, Jenny Raggett, project coordinator at Transport for New Homes, said: “Our country needs more homes. What we don’t need is more sprawling, car-dependent estates far from town centres and public transport links.

“Planning reform must take transport into account or it will result in more traffic jams and air pollution, carbon emissions and unhealthy, isolated living.”

The TCPA has published ‘Common Ground’, which sets out an alternative vision for reform focused on democracy, climate change and housing delivery.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of the TCPA, commented: “The planning system in England needs to change to make it more responsive to people’s needs. ‘Common Ground’ sets out a practical and measured basis for planning reform, which would be a starting point for achieving the shared ambition for good design, but within the grain of the existing planning system.

“Above all ‘Common Ground’ is about rebuilding trust in the system. Local development can only happen through a democratic process of building consensus for change. The same applies to changes to national planning.

“Common Ground’ focuses the role of planning on securing people’s health and wellbeing and is our contribution to a shared conversation about the reforms we need.

“We hope such a conversation will lead to the kind of lasting settlement on planning reform that would bring to an end a decades long process of continuous change.”

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