By Daniel Hunter

Figures released in the Home Builders Federation's (HBF’s) latest Housing Pipeline report reveal that approvals for 33,881 homes across England were granted in Q3 of this year, an increase of 36% on the previous quarter (24,872) and 17% on the same period last year (29,059).

This is a welcome improvement, although the number is still well short of the 60,000 per quarter needed to meet demand, or the 64,500 that were being granted on average during 2006/07. But as the second set of quarterly figures since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in April, it is a positive set of results that will hopefully continue.

Under the NPPF, Local Authorities have more power over what is built in their areas. They are required to assess their housing need now and over the coming years and then allocate sufficient land to meet it. Some Local Authorities are abiding by the positive planning principles set out under the new system and developing robust housing plans. Some are not.

The principles of the NPPF are also underpinned by a robust appeal system.

This is resulting in an increasing number of successful appeals in instances where Local Authorities are behaving unreasonably.

Continuing to stand behind the NPPF in this way will act as an incentive for councillors to take responsibility for their areas, put proper plans in place and ensure they have control over development in their areas, as opposed to allowing ‘planning by appeal’.

Planning permissions granted now will, in the main, be built over the next three or four years. Around 110,000 homes a year in England are currently being built, against a requirement for 240,000, so the need to see a continued and steady increase on the number of permissions granted is quite clear.

The social effects of continuing to undersupply homes are obvious: five million people languish on local authority waiting lists while first-time buyer numbers have plummeted — further stagnating the housing market.

Building homes the country desperately needs would also give the economy a huge boost. Every home built creates 1.5 full time construction jobs and up to twice as many again in the supply chain.

“The increase is good news and hopefully a reflection of the positive planning principles of the new system. It is just one quarterly increase and we are still well short of the number needed but we hope it starts a trend that will continue in 2013," Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the HBF, said.

“The new system gives much more power to Local Authorities to take control over what is being built in their areas. This is necessarily underpinned by a robust appeals process where local authorities are not meeting the responsibilities they have to their communities. While we are hopefully seeing a turning point in planning permissions much more can be done - the policy announcements within The Growth and Infrastructure Bill coupled with measures to kickstart stalled sites and a real and concerted effort to reduce red tape are vital to continuing this important progress.

“Ministers have in the past year unveiled some very positive measures aimed at boosting housing supply, but they will only succeed if we have a truly pro-growth planning system.

“The new system must provide enough viable land to build the number of homes the country needs. Continuing the current low level of house-building is storing up huge social and economic problems for the years ahead and the shortfall must be addressed.

“Building the homes we need would take millions off social housing waiting lists and enable beleaguered first time buyers to get a foot on the ladder. It could also create half a million new jobs, and give the country a massive and much-needed economic boost.”

Allan Wilén, Glenigan’s Economics Director, commented, “Private sector projects provided the main impetus behind the rise in third quarter planning approvals, offsetting the weakness seen during the previous three months. In addition, there was a surprising rebound in social housing projects. If maintained, the increasing number of projects successfully securing planning approval will help developers to open up new sites and increase construction activity as market conditions progressively improve over the next two years.”

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