The delivery of new homes remains at the top of the political agenda.
Almost daily headlines point to potential new initiatives intended to increase the supply of housing and to capture the uplift in land value because of a grant of planning permission.
Much of this is flotsam and jetsam and will continue to wash about the shores but other ideas are taking hold.
The autumn 2017 Budget announced a package of measures intended to deliver 300,000 new homes per year by the end of this Parliament which would if achieved be the highest since 1970.
The planning system is one of the biggest constraints to a step-change in housing delivery.
In an otherwise upbeat announcement in January on its annual results, the Crest Nicholson Holdings Plc Chief Executive commented on the challenges over delivery.
Getting from outline planning consent to building on site can prove a difficult process. The principles behind this are changing, but progress is slow, especially with the decreased resources available to local planning authorities.
The planning application fees increase in January and increased use of pre-application fees and planning performance agreements could help this but only if there is an element of ring-fencing.
All too often passage of a site through the planning process is held-back because of resource constraints faced by consultees such as highways and the ability to efficiently progress legal agreements.
Of course, the new initiatives and changes to the planning system takes resources and time to bed in.
In a letter of 30 January, Steve Quartermain CBE, Chief Planner at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, outlined the timing for consultation on some of these changes.
Key among the plethora of new matters is the pending changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and subsequently introduction of a standard methodology on calculating housing requirements.
A copy of Quartermain’s letter is available here.
The NPPF changes are to be consulted on with publication expected before the Easter break pushing back final publication potentially for some 2 months.
Therefore, implementation of the new standard methodology is delayed and this is affecting plan-making.
The potential to get-ahead of the end of March deadline before Local Plans had to account for the new standard methodology resulted in publication of many plans and shrinking of timescales.
It remains to be seen as to whether the delay hits the pace of plan-making and of course the picture varies across the country depending on the difference in targets between the local level and the new methodology.
The key to delivery of more homes is complex and extends well beyond plan-making.
A panel of experts chaired by West Dorset based Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin is undertaking a review of build-out of planning permissions into delivery of homes and are open for submission of evidence.
An aim of the panel is to identify the principal causes of the gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated for development or with planning permission. This is the land-banking debate which regularly makes headlines but has consistently failed to understand the complexity of the issue.
The process is intended to deliver an interim report in time for the Spring Statement by the Chancellor and a full report by the Autumn Budget.
Acknowledgement of the scale of the broken housing market by Government and the support for the housebuilding industry is welcome but more focus is needed on key constraints.
Local Government needs a boost in resources directed to the planning system and related areas of highways and legal services.
A simpler and more targeted NPPF and new housing methodology should be an aim to help remove the increasing tendency towards legal challenge and interpretation of planning policy.
The review into build-out of planning permission must take time to engage with the industry to understand the complexity of taking a site from outline planning permission through further stages of the planning process to delivery on site.