8 February 2019

Wholesale planning reform will give us the homes we need

The National Audit Office (NAO) has confirmed that the Government will fail to solve the housing crisis unless radical changes to the planning process are made.

The NAO says that the planning system is under performing because councils use outdated information to calculate how many new homes they need to build. At best, continuing the use this outdated data will only deliver 250,000 homes a year.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP recognised the challenges but stressed that “over the last three decades, governments of all stripes have built too few homes of all types.”

The NAO is right to point out that the Government cannot hope to build 300,000 new homes every year without reforming the planning process.

However, when considering the reasons why we are not building enough homes, the NAO does not tell the whole story.

The Government needs to do three things in order to build enough new homes:

  • update the flawed method used to assess local housing need;
  • ensure local plans are robust and allocate deliverable sites;
  •  reform the process of planning permission.

Homes England is already helping local authorities reform planning by:

  • working with local authorities directly to meet demand
  • speeding up the planning permission process;;
  • helping developers access finance after they secure planning permission.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “We cannot build 820 new homes every day unless we are realistic about demand. Decades of failure are no excuse. We need action, not reviews. The Government must learn from Homes England’s experiences”

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the House Builders Association (HBA), said: “Even if we correctly assess demand, unless we allocate deliverable sites and grant permissions, shovels won’t get into the ground. We have tinkered for years, it’s time for the Government to get real and actually reform the entire planning process.”