Government gives up on housing delivery

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has announced he is removing mandatory house building targets from the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. 

Colin Muller CEO of Muller Property Group explains why this decision signals government has given up on housing delivery…

The scrapping of mandatory housing targets is yet another blow to our industry that is working so hard amid a constantly shifting planning system that conspires against new developments at every turn.

Can anyone in government explain to me the current path to housing delivery in our country? I doubt it.  300,000 houses have never been built per year and it was highly unlikely they ever would, given the state of our choked, outdated & under resourced planning system. However, government needs to be clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development will remain. The 300,000 target would at least have given local authorities the impetus to get planning permissions granted for new homes.

Equally, removing the swing in favour of development when a local authority has a significant undersupply of housing, will have huge implications for housing proposals that go to appeal. I envisage many developers may now take the view that appealing is too unreliable and costly in the emerging climate.

Britain has a massive housing shortage and it is only going to get worse. To remove targets at a time when we urgently need more homes, particularly for those who need affordable homes, first time buyers, and our growing elderly population, is reprehensible.

Our country is not overdeveloped. Apart from new homes what is needed ever more so is a complete overhaul of the planning system where development and progress is welcomed and not impeded.  Getting even a brownfield development through planning at present has become almost impossible. Councils are full of excuses about staffing levels: why when the vote payer is funding them and on top of that they take in millions of pounds in fees from planning applications?

We would love to deliver more brownfield schemes, but we are hampered by Council shortage of staffing and NIMBYism at every turn.  This is not only prohibitive to development but also incredibly costly to the industry which is losing vast amounts of time and money fighting for consent on schemes that should be easily approved. If the system does not change, many smaller developers simply will not survive.

Not only will applications be delayed further, but plan-making will also suffer from the same endless arguments at Examinations in Public which dogged plan-making after Eric Pickles previously removed top-down targets in 2010. This can only benefit planning consultants and barristers who will relish the long hours and additional work required to agree on a politically palatable housing figure that actually meets the chronic shortage of housing in this country, whilst also supporting employment growth.

Asking local councillors with a short-term, political-cycle mindsets to aspire to housing targets which meet these needs is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

There is a complete disconnect between housing and delivery in our country and it has to stop.  There are 227,000 people currently homeless in UK and our government needs to act now to support the housing industry.  We are not sitting on landbanks or trying to carve up the greenbelt.  We are simply trying to support communities in ensuring there is suitable housing for all now and in the future.