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Reviewing the Government review

It is less than a month until Philip Hammond will publish the Government’s Spring Statement. This is expected to include an update on progress with the landbanking review announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn.

Will it point the finger at landbanking as the root cause for the gap between the number of houses permitted and the number delivered? Many doubt it.

When the issue of delivery is raised, local authorities often blame developers for sitting on land and developers, in turn, blame local authorities for applying a raft of pre-commencement conditions. We like to come up with simple answers to problems. In truth, the world is much more complex.

There are a range of factors that affect the implementation of planning permissions. It takes time to develop large, strategic sites with up front infrastructure. The availability of labour and materials. Conditions can take time to discharge. Planning permission might be needed first in order to secure development finance. There might be difficult on-site ground conditions. And the list goes on.

The Government is clearly taking housing seriously and exploration of various avenues to unlock delivery should be welcomed. However, the landbanking review is unlikely to be an influential and effective component of this.

Ultimately, the biggest factor to maintaining and maximising housing delivery over the coming years is likely to be the robustness and stability of the economy. The Government’s competency in handling of the Brexit negotiations will have a much deeper impact on medium and long-term housing supply than initiatives like the landbanking review.

Post script

Rather than looking for problems, perhaps housing delivery could be improved by everyone working more positively together. We admit that this reflects the thrust of a previous blog last year.

A better understanding of respective positions of the policy and decision makers and the developers, and the challenges that they each face would help to improve relationships, trust and, consequently, good planning and delivery.

As well as the right attitude and approach from both sides, council planning departments also need the resources to enable it happen. Perhaps that is worthy of a review?