The Small Sites Myth

Christine Whitehead has been peddling an old misconception that to counter the fall in the proportion of homes built by small builders the planning system should focus on many small sites rather than a few large ones.  The opposite is true.

  • Eras when small builders have been more important have been larger are eras when the total number of houses built has been larger
  • But the causation runs the other way eras with large housebuilding have been eras with more large sites like new towns and major council estates – try hitting 600 dpa per lpa without large sites
  • When large housebuilders concentrate on large sites there is less monopolistic competition by small builders for small sites
  • Large housebuilders have muscled in on small sites with their countyside homes divisions
  • When the state built large site there was less drip feeding of new housing
  • The Sedgefield method perversely disincentivises large sites and so reduced overall numbers
  • On the continent large sites are owned and subdivided by local authorities and then sold to many small builders – so the problem is not large sites but the oligopolistic structure of the housing industry.
  • Affordable housing thresholds produce grater profits for smaller sites and a flow of investment away from larger sites
  • The costs of infrastructure are hidden and borne by society for small sites again disincentivising investment in large sites

One thought on “The Small Sites Myth

  1. She’s right I’m afraid…politicians, local and national, have handed control of the land supply on a plate to the volume house builders for the next 15 years, courtesy of large allocated sites in adopted plans. They will now drip-feed the market to maximise return on capital. In areas with 5 year land supplies and adopted plans, unofficial moratoriums are already falling into place like dominos, banning all development outside of BUABs disproportionately affecting SME builders and effectively cutting them out of the land market (again!) for the duration of the plans.
    Rural affordable house building will now cease as Neighbourhood Plans (Nimby Charters) constrict all future supply to non-existent infill plots within tightly drawn BUABs – the exception being a handful of rural exception sites.
    In short, an unfolding disaster..completions will fall off a cliff in the next 18 months and SME builders will start to go to the wall, as 2008…

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