Planning Regulation Uncertainty Could Slow House Building, How Do We Recover?

When faced with a challenge on the scale of meeting the UK’s house building needs, the last thing you need is uncertainty. The commitments of financial and physical resources needed to create 300,000 new homes each year are enormous. The emphasis has to be on removing obstacles and uncertainties (without being reckless) rather than creating them.

A recent Financial Times article reported how uncertainty over future planning rules could be undermining the plan to ramp up house building. The Government has announced that a radical shake up of planning regulations is on the way. While the eventual outcome of this exercise may be helpful, any short term uncertainty over what form the new regulations will take is likely to delay projects.

The FT reported how some local authorities are delaying updates to their local development plans. Resource-strapped authorities naturally want to avoid having to repeat the task when new regulations come into effect. Some local house building targets, therefore, are being pushed back rather than pulled forward.

The transition to a new planning framework might not be straightforward. The Planning for the Future white paper contains some provisions that are already controversial. These include an algorithm that will calculate how many homes need to be built in each area.

Currently this model shows new house building heavily skewed towards London and the South East. Up to 50 Conservative MPs are threatening to oppose the measures, fearing overdevelopment and loss of green spaces.

Efficiency and Flexibility

Which brings us back to the uncertainty. Summer of 2022 is the optimistic target for having the new regulations in place. And once they are in place, what then? At this point we need maximum certainty, efficiency and flexibility as programmes are brought on-stream. These are not the qualities most people would associate with typical building projects.

So, alongside the simpler planning framework, we also need simpler ways to build. Unless Modern Methods of Construction (MMCs) are widely used ambitious home building targets will not be met.

MMCs like the i-SIP System provide the efficiency and certainty that will be essential. Systems such as Flexihomes by Innovaré also offer the adaptability to make the best use of available development land and meet local needs and planning requirements. The ‘how we build’ element of the puzzle is one bit of the uncertainty that we know how to resolve.

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