Monday, 23 September 2013

Does more approvals have to mean more conditions..?

The HBF has published it's latest Housing Pipeline report this morning.
The headlines are a 49% year-on-year increase in the number of planning approvals for new homes in England in the second quarter of 2013.
Whilst a fall on Q1, the figure still means there were 77,686 permissions granted in the first six months of the year, a 26% year-on-year increase.
The HBF also take the opportunity to warn though of overly onerous conditions that increase the time between a planning approval and work commencing on-site.
A high number of conditions is often an indication that details that might otherwise have been agreed during the application process have not been agreed. This might suit some applicants because often at attitude prevails that pre-application discussions can be abortive where the principle of development is not readily established. By the same token, a high number of conditions can be trade-off that applicants are willing to accept in exchange for an earlier approval.
Another reason for effectively postponing the approval of matters of details though is the resources available to LPAs, either internally or at statutory consultees. The absence, for example, of specialist ecological or conservation staff makes it more likely that discussions will have to continue with third parties.
Interestingly, the New Statesman has published an article in which policy makers offer solutions to the housing crisis.
All of the suggestions have merit, but the majority are at the level of national politics and policy making. Behind the concerns of the HBF about the use of conditions is the practical reality of development control (sorry, management...) planning. If LPAs had the time and resources to engage in meaningful pre-application discussions and to resolve issues at the pre-approval rather than the pre-development stage then not only would more approvals be forthcoming, but those approvals would better assist with getting houses coming out of the ground.

(Update. According to DCLG figures on Local Authority revenue expenditure and financing, planning and development services have seen the highest decrease in net current expenditure, 24.8%, in 2011/12.)



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