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Industry attacks localism agenda

Figures showing a continuing decline in planning permissions and record low housing completions have prompted renewed attacks on the government’s localism agenda.

The Home Builders Federation Housing Pipeline report, released this week, showed local authority planning permissions for house building continued their downward trend in quarter four of 2010.

It is the third successive quarterly fall and leaves permissions at less than half the rate being granted four years ago.

Just 33,000 homes were approved for construction in Great Britain in the last three months of 2010 - 9 per cent down on the previous quarter and 22 per cent down on a year ago.

Social housing was hardest hit with only 5,500 approvals - a new low for the survey.

The HBF report came after government figures showed the number of houses completed last year was the lowest since 1923.

Just 102,570 new homes were completed in 2010, 13 per cent down on 2009, itself a record low.

Both sets of data appeared in the same week the government announced final details of the New Homes Bonus scheme - nine months after regional spatial strategies were axed - leading to renewed accusations the policy vacuum had contributed to the parlous state of the industry.

HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said the findings were “extremely concerning”.

“These figures demonstrate the necessity for the government to clarify exactly how the new localism based planning system will deliver the homes, and supply the growth we desperately need,” he said.

“Only by ending the ongoing hiatus, caused by the scrapping of the old system without a ready replacement, can developers and local authorities plan ahead confidently and effectively for new housing.”

Redrow chairman Steve Morgan last week took the opportunity of the company’s half yearly results - which showed a big turnaround in fortunes, (see below) - to voice his concerns.

“Although we have long been critical of the unwieldy and grossly bureaucratic old planning system, we still have major concerns as regards the coalition government’s localism agenda,” he said.

“In our experience, many local authorities are using localism as an excuse to substantially reduce housing numbers and slow down the planning process even further.”

Mr Morgan said the company’s experience on the ground was in conflict with government claims the New Homes Bonus would prove a catalyst to development.

Galliford Try divisional managing director Greg Locke said planning remained a “major issue” as it had done during the previous administration.


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