Estate agents have given an enthusiastic endorsement to Chancellor George Osborne’s proposals to help boost housing building totals through changes to the planning system.
At the end of last week Osborne announced that residential developers could get automatic planning permission to build on some disused brownfield sites in England, that there would be new powers to make disused land of all types become available for potential development, and that rules on some extensions in London were to be relaxed.
Amongst the most enthusiastic agencies has been Hunters Property Group. Managing director Glynis Frew says Osborne “hit the nail on the head” adding that “this will undoubtedly create a lot more movement at all levels in the market and will not only create new homes but also a number of new jobs in the housing and construction sector.”
Adam Hesse, director at Aston Mead Land & Planning, says: “Land which has previously been developed but is vacant or derelict is ripe for constructing some of the 240,000 homes a year this country so desperately needs. If implemented, these latest proposals should go some way to addressing the chronic shortage of supply.”
Paul Smith, chief executive of Haart, says the country is “finally taking proactive steps toward getting Britain building again....tax breaks for housebuilders would also encourage more building.”
And Andrew Bridges, managing director of Stirling Ackroyd Estate Agents, describes the policy initiatives as “the change that London needs” as only 5,420 new homes were completed in the first quarter of 2015 - when in reality the capital requires a 160 per cent increase in the rate of finished homes to house its accelerating population.
Some agents, however, feel there is more to be done by the government.
“The Government needs to ensure that these sweeping reforms do not get obstructed by the detailed negotiations which surrounds any planning application. Delays are often more about roads and communal facilities as the level of housing. These are all important elements in creating new communities and must be factored into the promised changes” insists Nicholas Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops & Staff.
“Policymakers still fail to address the fundamental issue of development capacity across the industry and the increasing cost of materials. From bricklayers to site managers, the lack of skilled construction workers and professionals in Britain is one of the largest factors that continues to constrain the supply of new homes. Until this is addressed, it is unlikely we will see a marked change to development volumes” warns Justin Gaze of Knight Frank.