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Connells tells Gove he “must do more” to build new homes

A part of the Connells Group is telling the new Housing Secretary that he and his government “must do more” to provide new homes around the country. 

An annual residential survey by Lambert Smith Hampton - the property consultancy which is now part of the Connells Group - spoke with developers, investors, other property professionals and the public sector.

It found that the planning system was widely regarded by 68 per cent as the largest single obstacle to residential development. They identified the “challenging, time consuming and costly” planning system as the top issue facing delivery of new homes. Calls to simplify an “overly onerous” process, reduce red tape, speed up the planning system and invest in council planning resources, were echoed across the board.

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Some 74 per cent of those surveyed feel that the government is not doing enough to support the delivery of new housing. 

Opposition from local communities, application of Community Infrastructure Levies, onerous Section 106 contributions and other planning obligation costs follow closely as other major factors stifling development.

Unsurprisingly, 63 per cent feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed housing demands, with the main drivers being an increase in demand for more space and in particular outdoor or garden space, alongside the reduced need to commute, as increased home-working remains across many parts of the service sector. 

“This is reflected in pricing, where some of the more remote and rural parts of the UK have witnessed extraordinary house price growth over the past 18 months” explains a statement from Connells.

More than half of those surveyed agreed that mortgage conditions have improved in the last 12 months, but responses cast doubt over the long-term efficacy of incentives such as the stamp duty holiday and Permitted Development Rights. 

With 72 per cent per cent expecting house prices to rise further as demand continues to outweigh supply, alongside uncertainty over when development finance is expected to improve, the pressure is mounting on the government to address long-awaited planning reform and help drive development. At last week’s Conservative Party Conference, Gove stated his department will prioritise urban regeneration, new homes on brownfield sites, and help more renters to own their own properties, while giving more powers to local government. It was also confirmed that he will be ‘looking again’ at planning reform.

Mary-Jane O’Neill, head of planning for London and the South East at LSH, says: “Challenges faced by the residential sector run deep, and require fundamental step change in the UK’s approach to housing delivery. 

“Previous promises of radical reform had given hope of far-reaching change, so the current ‘pause’ is concerning, and hints at a u-turn on any significant overhaul.  

“It remains to be seen how far Gove will go, but respondents to our latest survey have been crystal clear in their demand for action and political courage. They want long-term and meaningful catalysts for change, not just tinkering with the issues and short-term fixes.”

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