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Builders blame Slow Planning for UK Homes Crisis

New research has revealed that shortages of skilled labour, slow planning approvals processes, and local opposition are holding back development in the UK and making the national housing supply crisis even worse.

To revive home building in Britain, planning experts are urgently calling for a new national approach to housing policy.

In a construction firm survey conducted by Lloyds Bank, 46 percent of respondents cited slow planning as a major hurdle to development progress. Opposition from local residents and a shortage of skilled labour were identified as major obstacles by 42 and 25 percent of companies respectively.

The research highlights the challenges that policy makers face when attempting to increase housebuilding levels in the UK.

The industry expressed approval at certain recently introduced policies such as plans to grant automatic planning permission for projects on unused industrial sites.

A report from law firm Bond Dickinson and Quod, well-known planning consultants, stated that the UK government needs to seriously consider bringing housing within the purview of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP).

The report states that using the NSIP regime, which brought about the consent of over 40 nationally significant infrastructure projects since it was founded in 2008, could relieve overtaxed local authority budgets by harnessing the resources of the private sector.

Bond Dickinson partner Kevin Gibbs said, “This is a national crisis which needs a national solution.” He pointed out that the current planning system doesn't ensure that local housing authorities will deliver the amount of housing needed. In his opinion, the government needs to lift any restrictions on housing production and lead the drive for large-scale housing developments.

The executive summary of the Lloyds report presents a general positive outlook. 87 percent of the respondents said that they wanted to increase their workforce during the coming year, but a skills shortage was presenting difficulties. 24 percent citing this as the biggest challenge currently facing their business.

 

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The survey also found that 58 percent of respondents believe that the sector has the requisite resources to help manage the crisis.

140,000 new homes were built in 2014, but the report says that this figure fails to reach the government target of 240,000.

Three-quarters of the bigger companies said that they feel they have the resources needed to deal with the shortfall, while only 50 percent of SME and 55 percent of small businesses agreed. Additionally, 45 percent called the planning system “too slow” and others cited local opposition to construction projects as an issue.

HBF planning director Andrew Whitaker said that a slow planning system was the biggest restriction on the build rates. He said that applications are taking too long to process and and that local authorities need to ensure that they have a sound local plan, maintain a five-year supply of land for housing purposes, and ensure that their planning department can process applications in a timely manner.

A Royal Town Planning Institute spokesperson countered Mr Whitaker by saying that blaming the planning system is an easy thing to do, as well as a wrong one. They said that the challenge must be tackled on multiple fronts through planning and non-planning means.

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