@GavinBarwellMP Crack down on Landbanking would be Weak and Counterproductive

Property Week

Developers that fail to build on sites for which they have planning permission could find themselves penalised when they apply for their next scheme, Gavin Barwell has warned.

The housing minister told Property Week he wanted to crack down on developers that have a “habit of putting in planning applications, getting permission, getting uplift in their land value and then not doing anything”.

The government was “looking at” encouraging councils to take a developers’ past record on building out schemes into account when they assess new planning applications, he said.

This could come in the form of central government planning guidance.

“That should be a consideration that can be taken into account the next time they come back for planning permission,” said Barwell.

He suggested a ‘use it or lose it’ policy, whereby developers failing to build on land would be stripped of it or face heavy fines, would be “too aggressive” and may discourage building.

“You’ve got to put pressure on developers to say ‘why aren’t we going quicker now?’ But you don’t want to do it in such a heavy-handed way that the effect is to get fewer homes built,” he said.

Barwell stressed the need to “balance” the changes with pro-development policies. In his speech, the minister also said the planning system was steadily improving but that more could be done.

He said charging higher fees and ringfencing the money for planning departments was an option being considered.

Marnix Elsenaar, partner and head of planning at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said the “stupid idea” could be “legally questionable”.

“Speeding up development is a laudable ambition, and a developers’ track record is clearly a relevant factor in decision making. But fundamentally, planning permission is gained on a site-by-site basis, and the suggestion as it currently appears would be legally questionable.”

“Planning permissions are not usually personal to developers, developers might sell sites on. It’s not always the applicant for planning permission that is building a site out.”

“Developers don’t not develop because they can’t be bothered, they don’t develop because the viability doesn’t work, because of rising construction costs, a skills shortage, things they can’t control. There’s no point trying to punish developers when there’s a whole range of other things the government should focus on.”

The idea is stupid, legally questionable and would result in fewer houses being built.

Though there is a problem with some housebuilders who wont build in any indivudual market above a certain rate  the main problem is with speculative property company that are not builders who sell land one which is then banked.  It wouyld simply encourage more ‘non developers’ into the market

How could a past record on building be material for those that dont build?

How would planning authorities measure it they would need records of ownership and completions by housing market area in the whole country.  These records dont exist.

Fundamentally it breaches the ‘de novo’ principle of each application being based on its own merits and not that of the applicant.  It opens the door to local authoritative refusing applications because they dont like the look of the developer.

Then waht is to stop the site being sold on to anyone the moment it has permission.

Also the NPPF is supposed to be based on clear yes or no rules – where is the yes or no rule hear.

This is a weak and dubious proposal.  Site Land value taxation – as always – is the obvious answer.

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