Government house planning system “underperforming”: NAO

The National Audit Office has criticised the government’s planning system for new housing development.

In a report published today, the NAO concludes that the system as it stands is “underperforming” and that improvements are needed if the government’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year from the mid-2020s is to be met.

The NAO says that the ministry of housing, communities and local government’s standard method for local authorities to assess new housing needs, developed in 2017, has “weaknesses”.

These result in a reduction in the number of new homes calculated to be required in five out of nine regions, which the NAO says could limit LA’s plans to regenerate.

Applying the new standard to London, meanwhile, increases the need to the extent that over double the 31,723 new homes built in the capital in 2017 – 2018 would have to be constructed.

The report summarises that the ministry will need to increase the average new number of homes built since 2005 – 2006 by 69 per cent while 50 per cent of LAs are likely to fail their respective housing delivery tests in 2020, which would result in penalties, and adds that there was a 15 per cent fall in the numbers of LA planning staff in the decade following 2006.

The NAO concludes with five recommendations: To monitor the gap in the number of houses needed resulting from the 2017 standard assessment method and the one carried out by LAs; to review the number of LAs at risk from failing to reach the delivery test and how this will be handled; to ensure that performance metrics for the planning application and appeals processes are accurate; to certify that infrastructure is properly funded and delivered; and for the ministry to work with industry bodies on addressing the skills gap in LA planning teams.

NAO head Amyas Morse says: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand. From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well.

“The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

Audley Group chief executive Nick Sanderson comments: “Of course the government’s housing delivery plan is flawed. But not only for the reasons raised today by the NAO. The whole focus on the plan is wrong – it’s too focused on building more and more houses. Yes, we need more housing supply. But we can do that by ending house-blocking. By freeing up family homes that already exist we can prevent the property market grinding to a complete standstill, and people houses to live in.”

“House builders and government alike are ignoring where the greatest potential in the market sits: the over-55s. Two in five UK homes are under-occupied, in the main due to lack of quality accommodation for older people to move into. It’s time to address the facts: if we truly want to kick-start movement in the market and create that ‘property-owning democracy’, we need to end the in-fighting and indecision, stop plastering over the cracks and invest in quality housing options for the older generation.”


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