Understaffed and underskilled planning departments

House plans for a traditional houseA new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has delivered a dismal picture of local authority planning departments which are struggling under current house building targets. The NAO reported that fewer than half of local authorities had produced a Local Plan that is less than five years old, even though it was a requirement of the government.

The ‘technically complex, resource-intensive and time-consuming’ production of a local plan meant that local authority planning departments were ill-equipped to deliver them in time. The absence of a five year supply of land for housing meant that developers could take advantage of greater freedom, effectively building wherever they want.

Figures show that 222,000 new build homes were delivered between 2017/18 – the largest number of homes built in a single year over the last 31 years, in all but one year. However, the report shed doubt on whether the government’s house building target of 300,000 additional homes each year by the mid-2020s could be achieved. Indeed, half of local authorities were likely to face penalties by failing the ‘housing delivery test’ in 2020.

Spending on planning functions by local authorities was criticised, with a fall in real terms of 14.6% between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said that the planning system was ‘not working well’ and would not support government targets. She said: “There aren’t enough experienced planning staff, appeals take too long and local authorities are not maximising contributions from developers to pay for local infrastructure.”

Housing minister, Kit Malthouse, said that planning played a ‘key role’ in its plans and that government was ‘conducting independent reviews on build-out rates and planning inquiries’.

If you’re buying a new build home, ask a Chartered Surveyor to produce a Snagging Survey for you. It will look at defects and cover everything from cosmetic problems to structural issues. The surveyor can carry out this survey before completion, so you can get any problems rectified under the developer’s warranty – before passing your money over to the developer.

Back to March 2019 Newsletter

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