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CN Briefing: planning; housing; SMEs

Is quicker always better?

It’s long been argued that housebuilders would be able to build more homes if it were not for the glacial pace of the local authority planning system.

So it must be good news then that the government is consulting on proposals for housebuilders to pay a fee to get their applications fast-tracked through all that town hall red tape.

Or perhaps not.

In principle, this policy sounds great. By injecting a bit of competition into the planning process, under-performing local authorities can be given a much-needed kick up the derriere.

But it also raises many questions.

For instance, if you’re a council with pressure to deliver a speedier decision, can you hand-on-heart say you would give it the same care and attention as you would otherwise?

Is it possible that deliberations might be on the perfunctory side to meet tighter deadlines?

And what could the proposals mean for the future of these developments?

Could it result in decent plans being refused? And on the flipside, will inadequate schemes start being passed through the system, purely to speed things along?

The plans will no doubt be music to the ears of larger housebuilders and developers that have significantly more funds than SMEs to pay for fast-tracked services.

But the worry is whether this will lead to a two-tier system, where bigger companies can dictate terms in a way their smaller peers cannot.

The government has suggested a fee-structure that would cover varying planning applications, which sounds good.

But will that guarantee a level playing field?

It is more likely that smaller housebuilders, which have less experience of the planning system and fewer resources, will find themselves at the back of a very long queue.

In other news

An improved performance from Bam’s UK construction arm has helped Dutch parent Royal Bam turn around a £95m pre-tax loss.

Ogilvie Group has posted revenue growth of 6 per cent and a 21 per cent jump in profit after a strong performance in its contracting and housebuilding arm.

Ardmore hasposted a £12m loss in its latest results after two exceptional items hit the firm’s bottom line.

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