A review of housing delivery test action plans has found that stalled or delayed sites is a major factor leading to under-delivery identified by councils, cited in 67 per cent of action plans reviewed.
Planning reviewed all 67 action plans which have been published for the parts of England that are underperforming most on housing delivery.
The problem of stalled sites is referenced in two-thirds of these plans. It includes instances where allocated sites have not come to fruition or where permissions have not been implemented, and can often affect major sites.
Limited site availability is another common problem (identified in 54 per cent of reviewed plans), and can be caused by limited authority boundaries, a lack of large development sites or a heavy reliance on brownfield sites.
Michael Knott, director at consultants Barton Willmore, says problems associated with a lack of available sites "must be down to the fact that there is insufficient land allocations in the local plan to bring forward housing." An obvious way to alleviate this situation is to ensure sufficient allocations into the plan alongside a healthy buffer, he says.
Fifty-four per cent of the reviewed action plans also cite site-level complexities, with examples including where there have been complex legal or land ownership issues preventing sites from progressing, or ground conditions mean there is a need for decontamination work.
Housing market factors cited by councils include developers’ difficulty in obtaining development finance, or an absence in the area of certain sites or types of private or public sector developer. Developer/landowner behaviour is identified by some councils as a problem, with a small number specifically citing landbanking as a factor.
Complaints about a lack of particular site size or developers of particular profile highlight the need for authorities to offer a good mix of sites, says Matthew Good, director at consultancy Pegasus Group. "Most local authorities should look for a good mix across the board, and across different markets, rather than throwing all their eggs into one basket," he says.
Another common cause of under-delivery highlighted in action plans is the presence of planning and environmental constraints, such as green belt or nature conservation constraints.
Some parts of the planning process are identified as sources of delay, in particular the discharge of conditions and the time taken to negotiate and sign-off section 106 agreements.
These findings chimme with the experience of practitioners. "It can take a remarkably long time to get sign-off for section 106s." says Andrew Jackson, head of development economics at consultancy Boyer Planning.
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