- say local authorities
Planning Resources Lacking
At the end of 2016, a joint research report from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) found that nearly 90% of local authorities believe that the government’s housing targets will be impossible to meet due to a lack of planning resources.
Insufficient Small Sites
The report, which is the first of its kind to draw upon the experience of both local authorities and SME house builders from right across the UK, also found that:
- 64% of builders and 45% of local authorities see lack of planning resources as a barrier to developing more small sites
- More than half of councils deliver fewer than 40% of homes on small sites
Higher Application Fees
One of the report’s recommendations is for councils to be allowed to raise planning application fees.
The report, Small is beautiful – delivering more homes through small sites, draws together evidence from surveys of 91 local authority officials and elected members and 108 SME house builders, roundtable discussions involving both groups, and a series of interviews with planning officers.
Remove barriers faced by SME Housebuilders
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The government aim to build one million new homes by 2020 won’t be realised unless more SME housebuilders can enter the housing market. That’s why the barriers that SME house builders currently face need to be removed.
“We know that the availability of suitable small sites and the difficulty getting planning permission on them are two of the biggest barriers these firms face.
Lack of Experienced Planning Officers
“In this research, both local authorities and SME builders identify under-resourcing as a key barrier to allocating more small sites and getting planning permissions in place on them. Too often small sites are dealt with entirely by inexperienced officers. There simply aren’t enough senior and experienced planners to make the system work effectively.” Berry concluded: “Planning departments need a cash injection and we therefore urge the Government to take on board concerns shared by both builders and councils and to allow local authorities the power to increase planning fees.”
Burden for Small Local Developers
Most small local developers are so concerned by the level of service provided by resource-stripped planning departments, that the FMB believes they would be happy to foot the bill, provided the raised fees are ring-fenced and result in an improved service.
Untapped Potential in Small Sites
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “There is a large untapped potential in small sites, but resource and capacity pressures in planning departments make it difficult to unlock. We need new approaches and new partnerships to build the homes we need. By working with a wider range of local builders, councils can stimulate local economic growth, while providing jobs and training for young people in the area.”
Autonomous Housing may Challenge Planning
As noted in a recent Weekly Insight, the prospect of fully autonomous housing holds out the potential for releasing almost limitless areas of land for ‘occupation’. This concept in itself presents a challenge for ‘Town & Country’ Planners, and perhaps the need to revisit the question of ‘what is planning for?’ For us, the whole process of designing for, engineering, manufacturing and building ‘Off-Site’ manufactured houses, now has to be a process embracing ‘spatial planning’, as well as one of continuous product improvement.
Pause for Thought on Massive Factory Pre-Fabrication
The shortage of planning officers creates a danger that massive ‘look alike’ housing factories may yet hold sway in the further ‘ticky-tacky’ destruction of our green and pleasant land. However, if ‘autonomous’ homes can be located anywhere, then land and infrastructure costs become secondary to the quality of place and the homes occupying it. Potentially this could free not only architectural design from the strictures of present day commercial housing development, but also remove the need for cardboard cut-out planning officers. Enabling ‘better’, ‘larger’, ‘smaller’, ‘interesting’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘vernacular’ homes to be provided may well require a different form of training and development for this breed of ‘fonctionaires’.
As long standing Chartered Building Consultants (CIOBC) and Chartered Surveyors, our approach to pre-fabrication is to deliver the high quality homes that architects and their clients want at prices they can afford. We welcome approaches for the development of new ideas and methods.