Planning permission not yet sought for over a million homes, LGA finds

Over a third of the homes allocated in English councils' local plans have not been submitted for planning permission, the LGA has found.
Over a third of the 2.7 million homes allocated in English councils’ local plans have not been submitted for planning permission, the LGA has found.

Developers have failed to seek planning permission for over a million homes on land earmarked for development by local councils, the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed.

Research by the LGA, based on a survey of council planning leads, found that over a third (1,003,600) of the 2,676,200 homes allocated in English councils’ local plans have not even been submitted into the planning system.

This number of unsubmitted homes is equivalent to an additional 4.4 years’ worth of housing supply, on top of homes already granted planning permission and schemes under construction.

The LGA says the analysis shows that planning is not a barrier to building the new homes England needs as the government seeks to push through its proposed reforms to the country’s planning system.

Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said: “Councils are committed to working with government to see an efficient, well-resourced planning system that ensures high-quality affordable homes are built where they are most needed, supported by the right infrastructure.

“However, there is no evidence that the planning system is holding up developments. Our research shows the opposite, with over a million homes earmarked for development that are yet to be brought forward by developers.

“This is another example of our broken housing delivery system, and shows why councils need to be given the powers to ensure desperately-needed homes are getting built in a swift and timely manner.”

A total of 192 council planning heads replied to the LGA’s survey with respondents broadly representative of all English regions and types of council.

It found that Yorkshire and Humberside were the regions with the longest pipeline of additional housing supply, amounting to 9.1 years, followed by the East of England at 8.6.

The shortest pipelines of housing supply, meanwhile, were in the South West and North East of England at 5 years of additional supply.

The LGA has long been a critic of the government’s proposed changes to the planning system, particularly changes to councils’ housebuilding targets.

Earlier this year, the LGA found that over a million homes that have given planning permission in the last decade have also not yet been built.

The LGA says that councils should be given additional powers to incentivise developers to bring sites forward or intervene where development has stalled.

Such powers might include being able to charge developers council tax for unbuilt developments or making it easier for councils to compulsory purchase land where homes remain unbuilt.

“The recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will need stability and certainty in planning,” Cllr Renard added. “This can only be achieved through a locally-led planning system where communities have a proper say over developments in their local area.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We agree that it is important for land identified in local plans to be taken forward quickly – which is why our planning white paper proposes that these sites would have automatic consent for the principle of development.

“The sites that councils identify for development also need to be realistic and informed by good community engagement.

“Only 50% of local areas have an up-to-date plan – our proposals will ensure every area has a local plan to build the homes that communities need.”

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