Half of UK housebuilders plan to step up construction

Half of UK housebuilders are planning to up their construction activity in the coming year, according to Knight Frank.

More than half of respondents to the agency’s latest construction survey said their firms would be stepping up starts and completions in the coming 12 months.

The upbeat sentiment arrives as the UK becomes increasingly aware of the importance of boosting the country’s supply to meet demand.

“The expanding UK population, a structural historical undersupply of new housing and a slowdown in movement up and down the housing chain is now injecting a sense of urgency into the need to deliver more new-build property,” says Knight Frank.

Official housebuilding data released each quarter from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) shows that some 152,440 new homes were completed across the UK in 2014/15, and Knight Frank estimates this will rise to around 172,000 in 2015/16.

Whatever data is considered, though, there has been a “significant” rise in the delivery of new homes in recent years, notes Knight Frank, with large housebuilders constructing 60 per cent more homes than in 2010.

However, the survey of highlights some issues within the industry that might be addressed to underpin the upward trend in development, as well as some of the possible solutions. The key suggestions include increasing resources for planning departments, as well as easing the path of planning on public sector land and improving skills and training for the industry. Indeed, some 56 per cent of respondents want to recruit more skilled workers in the next three years to help get building again.

UK plans to fast-track building “cannot come soon enough”

18th February 2016

The UK government has confirmed its plans to fast-track the building of houses, which the industry says “cannot come soon enough”.

Councils will compete to process planning applications and be able to offer fast track application services, like those available for getting a passport, announced the government today.

Ministers want the pilots to tackle the lack of incentive for councils to improve and speed up their planning service leading to “drawn out applications and local frustration” for both housebuilders and individual applicants.

The proposals, which are now out to consultation, are expected to speed up the planning application process overall, giving applicants the choice of whether to submit their plans to the local council, a competing council or a government approved organisation that would process applications up until the decision point.

Councils will also be able to offer the fast track planning application service – either through competition pilots or potentially through devolution deals.

Decision making on planning applications would remain with the local council to ensure decisions are taken locally and maintain the democratic link between local people and decision makers.

Planning Minister Brandon Lewis says: “Many councils are already working hard to improve the services they offer their residents, and across the country people’s satisfaction levels remain high. Now we want to go further by setting out these ambitious proposals to link any future increases in application fees to councils’ performance, and testing more competition including through offering dedicated fast track application services.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, welcomes the news, praising the government for listening to the industry’s concerns over a “sclerotic” planning system.

“Across the country, SME house builders continue to be frustrated by a painfully slow planning process that is holding back the delivery of new homes,” says Berry. “The numerous sources of delays and inefficiencies in the system impact upon house building rates, and act as a major deterrent to small developers who need to see speedy returns on their investments. Anything which encourages innovation and incentivises councils to deal with applications with greater urgency must be welcome.”

Berry continues: “Developers of all sizes have consistently said that they would be willing to pay higher planning application fees, provided the extra resources were ring-fenced to deliver a better quality service. The proposals announced today by the Government provide an avenue to house builders to access speedier planning that will allow them to get on with what they do best – building homes.”