Tepilo looks at how it’s now easier to get planning permission in England, going against the popular belief that planning processes are slow.
We regularly hear about the need for more new homes, especially in England where a large part of the UK population resides.
But we also regularly hear about a supply crisis and a lack of affordable homes – or any type of homes for that matter – being built. For decades successive governments have failed to build enough new homes, which means demand has long soared ahead of available stock.
Slow planning processes and too much red tape getting in the way of housebuilders have often been blamed for this, but new government data suggests that getting planning permission isn’t as hard as popular wisdom would believe it to be.
Pure Commercial Finance has uncovered data showing that, contrary to popular belief, it’s easier than ever before to get planning permission in England – a potential boon to housebuilders and large-scale developers throughout the land.
In fact, developers are now much more likely to get planning permission than a decade ago, just before the global financial crisis took hold. Successful planning applications are up by 6% since 2007.
However, despite planning permission becoming easier to achieve – the last 10 years has seen the number of successful applications increase from 82% to 88% - the number of planning applications has fallen by a quarter. Whether it’s misinformation being spread about the difficulty of securing planning permission or a lack of proposed developments in the pipeline, better planning conditions are not being taken advantage of.
As part of its Housing White Paper in February, the government outlined plans to speed up the planning process – but it may just need to make it clearer that, if you are planning a major project or development and you need planning permission, your chances of it being granted are actually much higher than you might think, and certainly higher than they were in 2007.
Part of the drop in planning applications since 2007 can be attributed to the global economic crash, which led to an extended period of slow housebuilding as austerity was introduced and the UK economy slowly but surely started to recover. Planning permission was also less readily granted in the immediate aftermath of the credit crunch.
Now, though, a relaxation of planning rules and better planning guidance are allowing more planning applications to be granted than ever before. To give this some context, in the year ending March 31 2017 there were a total of 18 locations in England where 100% of major development applications were accepted. This included Lincoln, Adur, Halton and North York Moors National Park.
By contrast, the least likely location to secure successful planning permission was Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, where only 38.46% of planning applications were granted. Elsewhere, a low success rate for planning applications was also seen in Spelthorne (50%) and Bournemouth (52.08%).
Local authorities and planning bodies are, more often than not, willing to grant planning permission for redevelopment, regeneration and property projects, with some locations granting every single planning application that comes their way. While Nimbyism and concerns over development on the Green Belt are two possible barriers, the idea that securing planning permission is often tricky would appear to be contradicted by the above research based on government data.
So what can be done to fix this impasse? Making the situation clearer to major housebuilders and large-scale developers (which increasingly includes those investing in Build to Rent) could help to see an uplift in planning applications. Of course, ongoing political and economic uncertainly – especially surrounding Brexit – may be deterring some developers from putting their plans into action.
What’s more, some developers are guilty of what is known as land hoarding or land banking, a practice that the government has promised to clamp down on. Some have called for more decisive action on this front to ensure land doesn’t remain empty or undeveloped.
Greater certainty about the Brexit deal the UK is going to get would help to build confidence in the market again, while the government still needs to do more to spread the housebuilding load so small and medium-sized housebuilders can compete with the major firms who currently construct the majority of the UK’s new properties.
As always, no easy solutions, but the high percentage of successful planning applications is at least a cause for cautious optimism in the long fight to get Britain building the homes it needs.