Tracking Progress: Monitoring the build-out of housing planning permissions in five local planning authority areas

Insight

Tracking Progress

Monitoring the build-out of housing planning permissions in five local planning authority areas

17 Sep 2021
Recent debates on planning reform and the housing crisis have often sometimes 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.
Tracking Progress – the next phase of research – does a deep dive into five local authority case studies, using their monitoring data to look at what is happening to individual planning permissions at the local level once granted. How many planning permissions lead to actual completions and how quickly? How many permissions do not deliver? How many are replaced by fresh permissions before or during the build out?
The research shows that – based on the five case studies - when looking at the number of units granted any type of permission (both full and outline), after five years, only a small percentage (3-5%) have actually lapsed, with the vast majority of homes either having been built (35-50%) and a similar proportion on larger sites that are being built out but being delivered on a phased basis beyond the initial five year period. A sizeable proportion – 10-15% - required a fresh planning permission to address amendments to the scheme.
The findings reflect the lived experience of those involved in planning and development: that developers do not go through the costs involved in securing planning permission only to choose not to implement them. It is the reality of development, where implementation of permissions is often bound up with complex site-specific issues (such as securing statutory approvals, signing-off details, resolving land ownership and legal hurdles) that take time to resolve and in many cases require a fresh permission. The report recommends greater acceptance by LPAs of non-material amendments via use of s.96a, as a means of ensuring schemes requiring change for practical reasons can be brought forward more smoothly, without necessity for a separate permission.