More than a million homes with planning permission not yet built, say councils

More than a million homes granted planning permission in the past decade have not yet been built, analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests.

Across England, 2,564,600 units have been granted planning permission by councils since 2009/10 – while 1,530,680 have been completed, according to the LGA’s analysis of Government figures.

The LGA said the number of planning permissions granted for new homes has nearly doubled since 2012/13, with councils approving nine in 10 applications.

It is calling on the Government to use its forthcoming planning white paper to give councils powers to take action on unbuilt land which has planning permission.

This includes making it easier to compulsory purchase land where homes remain unbuilt, and to be able to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.

Ahead of next month’s Budget, the LGA is also calling for the Government to reform Right to Buy, by allowing councils to keep all of the receipts of homes sold under the scheme to replace them and to have the flexibility to set discounts locally.

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesman, said: “If we are to solve our housing shortage, councils need to be able to get building again and resume their role as major builders of affordable homes.

“It is also vital that the planning process is protected, so that councils and communities can ensure we realise the Government’s ambition of building beautiful homes, which includes the necessary infrastructure and affordable housing.”

Greg Beales, campaign director at Shelter, said: “We desperately need reforms to make our land and house building system fairer for everyone. This is essential to allow councils to start building the social housing we desperately need.”

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said: “As has been proved time and time again, house builders do not sit on land or permissions unnecessarily.

“In the current market, where demand for new homes is high, there is no reason why builders would sit on land.

“The vast majority of unbuilt permissions are either on sites where work has already started, or have only got an initial ‘granted’ consent and are navigating the complexities of the planning system to get a final ‘implementable’ permission which means where builders can start work.”

He continued: “Too many sites are stuck in the planning system, with tens of thousands of plots at ‘permission granted’ stage awaiting full sign off by local authorities.

“It is vital that planning departments are sufficiently resourced and that applications are processed efficiently so that work can begin on new sites more quickly.

“The Government’s recent emphasis on speeding up the planning process should address some of the entrenched issues and help house builders to get on site and building new homes more quickly.

“We would welcome local authorities getting back into house building and providing additional new homes to those being built by the private sector and so helping address the housing crisis.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Last year we delivered more homes than at any time in the last 30 years and we are going even further to deliver much-needed new homes. This includes making the planning system faster, more responsive and more certain for all users.”