Delays in planning ‘hindering developers’

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‘Unachievable’ government targets and delays in the planning process are hindering residential development in the North West, according to a report published today by BDO LLP.

The accountancy and business advisory firm found that 94 per cent of MDs and CEOs from major developers and housing associations thought government targets of 245,000 new homes per annum in the next two years are unrealistic. The planning process is still the main barrier to development, closely followed by land availability.

In the North West, the estimated demand for new homes is up to 19,600 each year. While the target is deemed unachievable, housing bosses thought that if the planning and land availability challenges are addressed, they could on average increase output by 19 per cent annually.

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More than half (52 per cent) of respondents thought the National Planning Policy Framework has made no difference. Some developers (18.8 per cent) even reported that the NPPF is creating more problems than it is solving, such as imposing developments on local communities without the appropriate infrastructure to support it.

Tim Entwistle, partner and head of BDO LLP in the North West, said: “While sentiment regarding the achievability of government targets is wholly negative, what is really surprising is that it can be rectified with a few small tweaks to planning policy and to the distribution of public sector land.”

The report showed that housebuilders want to see the introduction of mandatory response times for planners, to help speed up the planning process and for the government to release surplus land for development.

Smaller initiatives which respondents felt could really boost development include government support of the construction sector to help develop skills. More power given to local authorities via devolution would also be impactful, as well as alternative sources of lending.

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Tim added: “The general election is the right time for all political parties to address the barriers to housebuilding. The Help to Buy ISA is a step in the right direction.”

and would serve to support more first-time buyers in the region to get on the housing ladder. However, let’s hope the government takes the opportunity to help developers with the supply issue before the demand for such an incentive takes hold.”

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