Planning Permission Granted
Did you know that there are over a million homes in the UK where planning permission has been granted - but the houses have never been built! It works out that over the last 10 years 40% of the houses with planning permissions just remained as open fields or vacant plots or otherwise unused land.

This was certainly a surprise to me - and this is happening more and more. Did you know that the rate at which planning permission for homes is being granted has nearly doubled between 2012/13 and 2019/20.

And did you know that local councils grant planning permission for homes 90% of the time?

Could it be that some companies and people are just trying to increase the value of their land by getting planning permission (maybe to sell it on and make a large profit) without any real intention of actually building anything? I don't know.

So what are the reasons why the houses are not being built?

  • It is not because there's a genuine shortage of building land.
    Enough land was there with permission to build over a million homes.
  • It is not because councils are slow at granting permission.
    Councils have doubled the rate at which permissions are granted.
  • It is not because councils don't grant permission often enough.
    Councils grant 90% of applications.

Derelict Land
The government is blaming the councils and are using this as an excuse to propose new regulations which mean that the key decisions will be taken by the government itself e.g. total numbers of houses, the timing, the policies which councils must follow. In addition 8 local councils with lose their powers as Planning Authorities altogether. It is all part of a right wing move to concentrate more power in the hands of the government itself - with fewer and weaker local councils.

Hertfordshire County Councillor for Tring, Nick Hollinghurst, is also a member of Dacorum Borough Council - which is a Planning Authority.

He said, "The Local Government Association, which represents local councils in their dealings with the government disputes that this failure to build houses for which permission has already been granted is the fault of local councils - and so do I."

"There are many reasons but most are the result of government ideology. They have given property owners permitted development rights to convert office blocks and commercial premises to residential units, no matter how unsuitable - this is often far more profitable than building actual houses. They have allowed land and house prices to be at the mercy of uncontrolled free market instability. They have - also in the name of the the free market - failed to ensure jobs, business growth and prosperity are shared fairly between regions resulting in high prices in the South East, often out of the reach of ordinary people, and depressed markets elsewhere which mean low profits for developers."

"All of these things mean it is so often not in the interest of developers actually start building. They wait for prices to rise again and in the meantime content themselves with the easy pickings to be had from commercial building conversions."

He conluded, "What local government needs is not for powers to be taken away from them, but to be given more powers - to compel housing starts on unused land with planning permission, to limit poor quality commercial building conversion - which is resulting in the loss of start-up business premises - and to ensure sensible phased development where new homes are actually needed locally."

The government meanwhile, in a proposal that could make things worse, is planning to remove the power of local authorities to raise funds for infrastructure, e.g. S106 agreements and CIL, and replace these by a new government levy where the infrastructure money goes straight back to them.