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Housing planning approvals up 36pc but still well below demand

Housing planning approvals soared by 36 per cent in the third quarter of 2012 - but are still half the number needed to meet demand, a report says today.

The Home Builders’ Federation said approvals were at 33,881 across England, up from 24,872 in Q2, and up 17 per cent on Q3 2011, which saw 29,059.

Although a welcome improvement, the HBF pointed out that the number is well below the 60,000 quarterly figure needed to meet demand. In 2006/7, there were 64,500 approvals per quarter.

The HBF’s Housing Pipeline report points out it is the second quarter following the launch of the National Planning Policy Framework, which is still yet to bed in across the entire country.

The NPPF calls for robust housing plans from local authorities and a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The HBF says some councils are abiding by the new system and developing robust housing plans, but some are not.

It says the NPPF is also underpinned by a robust appeal system, which is seeing an increasing number of successful appeals in instances where councils “are behaving unreasonably”.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: “The increase is good news and hopefully a reflection of the positive planning principles of the new system. It is just one quarterly increase and we are still well short of the number needed but we hope it starts a trend that will continue in 2013.  

“While we are hopefully seeing a turning point in planning permissions much more can be done - the policy announcements within The Growth and Infrastructure Bill coupled with measures to kickstart stalled sites and a real and concerted effort to reduce red tape are vital to continuing this important progress.”

Allan Wilén, Glenigan’s economics director, said private sector projects provided the main impetus behind the rise in third quarter planning approvals, but there was also a surprising rebound in social housing projects.

“If maintained, the increasing number of projects successfully securing planning approval will help developers to open up new sites and increase construction activity as market conditions progressively improve over the next two years.”

Around 110,000 homes are being built each year in England, against a requirement for 240,000, says the HBF. It adds that five million people “languish on local authority waiting lists” while first-time buyer numbers have plummeted.

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