Oliver Letwin

Housing report recommends new planning rules for larger sites

An independent review has claimed that a new set of planning rules should be introduced for sites with more than 1,500 homes to speed up the property-building process.

The report by Oliver Letwin MP stated that these new rules would require developers to build a wider range of properties with different designs and tenures to speed up build-out rates.

In his interim report, Letwin said he could not find “any evidence” that major developers were “holding land as a purely speculative activity” and their business models instead rely on the sale of homes.

Instead, he found that having too many identical properties on large sites – and the limits on how quickly these could be sold – was the fundamental reason behind the slow build-out rate.

The government has said that it will now consider the report into the build-out rate of large sites before deciding on the next steps.

The report calls for:

  • new planning rules which require homebuilders to offer a range of different types of properties on big sites, so they can be completed more quickly without “flooding” the market with a large number of identical properties
  • a new national expert committee to be set up to advise councils on the different types of properties that should be offered on large sites; they would also handle appeals where there is a dispute between developers and local authorities
  • incentives for homebuilders to change plans for existing sites so they start offering a variety of property types immediately
  • councils to be given a more muscular role in guiding major homebuilding projects – and the power to purchase undeveloped land for 10 times its existing use value; this would make it viable for more affordable housing to be built

“I found that the main reason developers are slow to complete building on large sites is that there is only a limited demand each year for the highly uniform properties they are building on those sites,” said Letwin.

“My final report sets out some policy levers that government can use to increase the variety of homes on sites, so they can be built out more quickly.”

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