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Planning system accused of holding up public land deals

The government has been urged to fast-track public land disposals through the planning system to allow its other housing stimulus measures to take effect.

Housing minister Grant Shapps promised in June that enough land to build 100,000 homes by 2015 would be sold off by the public sector.

Then in November the government revealed its strategy to boost housing demand, including a mortgage indemnity guarantee scheme to slash first-time buyer deposits to about 5 per cent.

But housebuilders and regeneration specialists this week warned that both the supply and demand-side measures were of limited use while the planning system was holding up land.

Regeneration firm Inland Homes this week announced the sale of 88 plots with planning consent for apartments at Drayton Garden Village in west London (pictured) for more than £5 million.

Finance director Nish Malde said the deal was a significant sign of the housebuilding sector’s recovery in the South-east.

But he warned that the public sector land promised by the government for housing would take more than two years after it has been sold to be of any use matching this increased demand.

“We are seeing desire for land from housebuilders. They are still nursing their wounds but some have cash and are short of land so they need new sites,” said Mr Malde.

“Unless government legislates to ensure local authorities pass planning permission on these sites fairly quickly, then it will be at least 18 to 24 months from when the land is released to when it is used. It will not help at all with the current economic crisis.”

A Home Builders Federation spokesman said housebuilders were desperate for planning-ready land. “A lot of initiatives have been announced but unless the government sorts out the planning system the rest will be somewhat devalued,” he said.

He called for councils to be given powers to speed up planning approvals for land disposed of by the public sector.

“Clearly any land coming through in the short term will help bridge the gap before we get a planning system that delivers in the long term.”

The government expects to publish a final version of the National Planning Policy Framework by April 2012.


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