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Common Red Tape Issues That Can Stall a Housebuilding Project

Developers claim that important housing projects are being delayed for years by red tape that forces them to make window sills a certain colour, protect slow worms or meet other taxing demands before they can start work. Each condition can require pages of official documentation and hours of work to comply. 

These revelations have been made by major building firms in the wake of allegations that the industry is hoarding land, but builders have warned that construction is being held back by a wall of bureaucracy. 

Developers dispute the claims that housebuilders are sitting on land to increase profits, and instead believe that planning laws need to be addressed, with the real issue behind the housing shortage being excessive red tape. 

Many small, medium and even large developers have said they would find it more difficult to start in the housebuilding business today due to the sheer complexity of bureaucracy. 

The recent publication of a government white paper on the subject of fixing the broken housing market, and the decision to look into land banking has stirred the debate. 


One developer claimed that it t received 40 demands from the council, on a project to construct just over 100 homes in 2015. They included:

  • Obtaining approval for roadworks 
  • Seeking permission to move any foliage that birds might use for nesting 
  • Erecting pre-approved fences around five silver birch trees 
  • Reporting on colours and other details of door, window, and garage lintels 
  • Submitting detailed drawings showing proposed brick types and design of windows, garage and house doors 
  • Providing all building material textures and colours to the council 
  • Building 10 bat boxes and 22 bird boxes 
  • Taking steps to protect hedgehogs 
  • Protecting slow worms by filing an ecologist report 
  • Carrying out a flood risk assessment 
  • Creating a traffic management system 
  • Creating provision for bicycle paths 
  • Establishing car parking 
  • Setting up access for electric car charging points 
  • Photographing any buildings that need to be demolished 

Despite this the government have proposed reducing the time that builders have to work on projects with planning permission to two years, before permission is removed.  Ministers have also proposed that developers that fail to construct homes quickly enough could have their land confiscated by local authorities. 

Builders were keen to point out that there was a substantial difference between outline permission, where land for housing is approved by planners, and detailed permission, which is required for the builder to actually begin work. If the two-year deadline for work commencement was counted from the time outline permission was granted, many projects would be undeliverable. 

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