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Third of permissions not built, claims Shelter.

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Shelter said the country’s current housebuilding system encourages developers to sit on land and “drip out new homes so as to keep prices high”.

It wants the government to get tough on developers by giving councils the power to tax those who are not building fast enough. Shelter wants polices outlined in the housing white paper, including granting planning permission to developers based on their track record, to be taken forward.

The charity’s research also suggests that the profits of the country’s top five housebuilders have increased by 388 per cent over the last five years, to a total of £3.3 billion in 2016.

Anne Baxendale, head of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: "While people across the country struggle with eye-wateringly high housing costs, developers' profits are soaring into the billions. Time and again we hear the ‘red tape’ of the planning system being blamed but the real problem is a system where developers make more profit sitting on land than they would by building homes.

"It's clear our housebuilding system has failed the nation but the government can turn things around by supporting a whole new approach. Shelter's New Civic Housebuilding model listens to the needs of communities and gives more powers to councils to get developers building the high-quality genuinely affordable homes we need."

While headline planning permission data is growing at unprecedented rates, a reflection of builders’ intention to build more in the coming years, the majority of this land is not at a stage at which it can yet be built on.”

Delays in the planning system mean permissions can take a number of years to process the point where construction to start, O’Leary said, especially on very large sites with complex infrastructure requirements.

The cost and risk involved in securing planning permission has “hampered” the ability of small firms to grow with large companies, which dedicate “significant resource” to navigating the process.

“Many of these so called ‘phantom homes’ will be plots on sites where construction is underway  but it obviously takes time to actually build out all the homes.

“Oversimplified and ideologically driven analysis distracts from the efforts of builders large and small, public and private to tackle the housing crisis. A basic understanding of the common house builder business model demonstrates why land with an implementable planning permission is started right away.”

Tom Kenney, policy officer at the RTPI, told The Planner that Shelter’s research highlights the success of the planning system in delivering more permissions for new housing.


"It is important to recognise that there are a number of legitimate reasons why outline planning permissions do not translate into housing completions in the short-term. However these findings reaffirm the need for the government to find ways to speed up housebuilding."

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