'Bumper backlog' of 475,647 homes waiting to be built


A "bumper backlog" of nearly half a million homes across England are still waiting to be built after being given planning permission, according to analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA).

A study commissioned by the LGA found that 475,647 homes were yet to be built across England in the financial year 2014/15 after being given planning permission. 

This is the highest annual total in records going back seven years, according to the findings, which were made by construction industry analysts Glenigan.

The LGA said the "bumper backlog has grown at a rapid pace over the last few years".

In 2012/13, there were 381,390 homes with planning permission that had not yet been built.

The study suggests that it is taking around a year longer for developers to complete construction work, compared with the late 2000s.

It now takes 32 months on average for building work to be completed after sites receive planning permission, which is 12 months longer than in 2007/08, according to the LGA.

The LGA said its findings show the need to tackle the industry skills shortage affecting the construction sector amid the growing levels of demand in the housing market.

Council leaders also want powers to charge developers full council tax for every development which has not been built from the point that the original planning permission expires, as a way of forcing faster house builds.

Councillor Peter Box, the LGA's housing spokesman, said: "Councils are approving almost half a million more houses than are being built, and this gap is increasing.

"While private developers have a key role in solving our chronic housing shortage, they cannot build the 230,000 needed each year on their own. To tackle the new homes backlog and to get Britain building again, councils must have the power to invest in building new homes and to force developers to build homes more quickly."

The LGA said that 212,468 planning applications were granted permission in 2014/15, marking a 13% increase on 2007/08. It said that councils approve nine in every 10 applications.

The average house price hit the £300,000 mark in England for the first time on average in October, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Many economists have said they expect house prices to continue pushing upwards in 2016 amid a shortage of homes for buyers to choose from.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron defended his record on affordable housing as he launched a plan to build 13,000 new homes by directly commissioning developers to build on Government land. The Government has insisted the move will see homes being built at a faster rate.

According to figures from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the mismatch between demand and supply means that there are now around 10 house hunters for every home on the market across the UK. 

Mark Hayward, managing director of the NAEA, said on Monday: "It's all very well planning to build houses, but we need to move to action and get the bricks and mortar on the ground, if we're to solve the crisis we're faced with."

John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), said it has been "proved time and time again" that house-builders do not "land bank" in terms of delaying starting work on a site once they have fully implementable planning permission. Land banking is the practice of holding on to land on which homes could be built in order to wait for its value to increase.

Mr Stewart said: "The vast majority of the 475,647 homes quoted by the LGA are either on sites where work has already started, or where there is not a fully 'implementable' permission and where it is not legal for builders to commence construction.

"Speeding up the rate at which permissions are granted - i.e. the move from 'granted' to 'implementable' - is one of the keys to significant, sustainable increases in house-building. Too many sites are stuck in the planning system, with an estimated 150,000 plots awaiting full sign-off by local authorities."

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said the LGA's research echoes Rics's recent findings that Britain is facing its worst skills shortage in 20 years.

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesman said: "Building is already under way on more than half the 475,000 homes granted planning permission. And we've got Britain building again with a 25% increase in the number of new homes delivered over the past year alone."

Sadiq Khan, Labour's candidate for Mayor of London, said: "Under the Tories, the UK, and London in particular, has been falling far short of building the number of homes we need.

"These figures confirm that the Government's plans to tear up the planning system will miss the point. We need powers to get developers building - alongside support for councils and housing associations which are building too."