Feeding the Pipeline: Assessing how many permissions are needed for housebuilders to increase the supply of homes


Feeding the Pipeline

Assessing how many permissions are needed for housebuilders to increase the supply of homes

30 Nov 2021
Recent debates on planning reform and the housing crisis have often referenced the abstract statistic of 1.1m, which compares the number of homes granted planning permissions in England since 2010/11 with the number that were built in the same period.
These national-level figures can be misinterpreted and tell us relatively little. To better inform consideration of how permissions translate into homes people can live in, Lichfields was commissioned by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation and the Home Builders Federation to carry out three linked research papers. In May, the first piece of research revealed that – when one looks at the sub-national geography of permissions - there remains an acute shortage of permissions in the parts of the country where housing is needed most. In September, the next phase of research showed – using five deep-dive case studies – that the vast majority of homes on planning permissions do go on to be delivered on a phased basis, but that new planning permissions are also used to make changes to schemes, whilst 3-5% of homes granted permission might be expected to lapse without delivery.
Feeding the Pipeline – this final strand of the research – looks at how many additional implementable planning permissions on sites are needed to boost housing delivery from 243,770 net additional homes (2019/20) to achieve ambitions of delivering 300,000 net additional homes per annum across England. It does this by exploring how 10 of the country’s largest housebuilders draw upon their land pipelines to bring forward new homes, illustrating how many additional planning permissions will be necessary for the housebuilding sector as a whole to scale-up their delivery to achieve the national 300,000 homes per annum ambition.
The research shows that, with generally short pipelines held by housebuilders equivalent to 3.3 years’ output and each ‘outlet’ delivering on average 45 homes each year, to bridge the gap to 300,000 net additional homes will require additional sites – or ‘outlets’ – being granted planning permission. The scale-up needed is equivalent to each District in England granting permission for an extra 4 to 5 medium sized sites per year, or alternatively 4 to 5 large sites which deliver each year over a longer period, in addition to continuing to approve its usual ambient level of permissions being granted.
In practice, the uptick in planning permission activity required will necessitate different actions; the distribution and location of those permissions needed will not be evenly spread across the country, with some areas needing to do more than others, whilst the types of site needed will also vary, with the need to ensure a good mixture of types and sizes. The report does not seek to determine who should be building the homes needed, but it provides an illustration of the scale of challenge for planning, and highlights the need to ensure appropriate resourcing of the system and an adequate reflection of the need for those additional housing permissions within planning decisions.