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Planning to fail?

I don’t know about you, but I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard about how many homes the UK needs to build to solve - or at least alleviate - the housing crisis.

Is it 200,000 a year? Is it 250,000? Do I hear 300,000 at the back?

Whatever the number may be it’s a) a big one, and b) very far from the number we are currently managing.

The reasons for the failure of successive governments to come anywhere near these kinds of figures are myriad, but most rational observers would agree that the planning system sure doesn’t help speed things along.

Today’s startling revelation that planning committees in London take on average eight months to reach decisions (with their provincial counterparts not faring all that much better by the way) suggests that this is a problem no nearer to being fixed.

All of which puts into some perspective what was a big day for the housing sector.

For one, the government’s much-anticipated Housing Bill finally saw the light of day (or at least the half-light of the Commons chamber).

While we continue to digest all 110 pages (see CN’s dedicated housing section tomorrow for full details), what does seem clear from last week’s Tory party conference is that the direction of travel is towards homes to buy and away from ‘affordable’ rent - a move which could solve the crisis for the few rather than the many.

The irony of the current situation, of course, is that housebuilders are enjoying a golden era of record profit announcements. It might not be universally popular, but any move to favour higher-margin homes for private sale over affordable housing obligations is going to go down well with that part of the electorate.

In London, meanwhile, 100 business leaders came together this morning to launch Fifty Thousand Homes - a campaign to double the amount of homes being delivered in the capital. Unfortunately for anyone hoping to hear new ideas, the campaign is more about ensuring the issue is front and centre of next year’s mayoral election.

Speaking at the launch, Labour candidate Sadiq Khan said he wanted next year’s vote to become “an arms race” over housing.

If that happens, hopefully he and Zac Goldsmith will come up with something more tangible than a catchy name.

Flowering of Scotland?

Twelve months on, editorial analyst Charlie Schouten looks at whether Scotish construction has bounced back from the referendum.

Growing gains

Deputy news editor Robyn Wilson asks executive chairman Stuart Black how Lakehouse has managed eight acquisitions in seven years.


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