2016 certainly appears to have got off to a good start – with the announcement from David Cameron that the Government has promised to directly commission the building of homes on publicly owned land. This, he said, would lead to quality homes – many of which would involve smaller building companies – being built at a faster rate, along with the delivery of up to 40% affordable ‘starter’ homes. This first phase is planned to include up to 13,000 houses on four sites outside of London, although further housing will come forward via Old Oak Common in London.
On the face of it this is indeed good news; not only for those small house builders who particularly suffered during the recession, but also for anyone hoping to gain a foothold on the property ladder – or indeed for anyone wanting to find a new and affordable house. Certainly many people within the industry and professional commentators have expressed the hope that this provision of new houses might stem the rise in property prices – this of course remains to be seen.
Questions to be answered
As far as we know, the Government believes that the construction of these houses will start this year, as the earmarked sites already have planning permission. However, the details for the direct commissioning are not yet widely known; for instance, how will the small house building companies be chosen? How will the Government avoid deterring many of these companies from becoming involved in the process when, in all likelihood, they will have to run the gauntlet of excessive paperwork and EU procurement rules?
And how exactly does the Government propose to define a ‘small building company’? Will it be by the number of employees; turnover; annual completions etc? Another issue that has already been raised is whether these small building companies will be expected to only deliver the houses and, if that is the case, who will be responsible for the delivery of the associated infrastructure? The overriding concern is that these firms will not be familiar with the type of infrastructure that will be required for these kinds of development sites.
There are lots of questions that still need to be answered. Nevertheless, we have no doubt that this initiative is well meaning, and that it should be supported.
However, while there are still plenty of hurdles to be cleared, it will be interesting to see how much development can be started, and on how many sites, before the end of 2016.
Increase in planning applications
We are seeing small building companies gradually return to the construction market and, in particular, to housing. Over recent months, Apex Planning Consultants has seen a growing number of individuals, partnerships and small/medium sized companies entering the planning and housing process, seeking permission for single houses (‘paragraph 55’ within the NPPF), developments of two to five houses, but also expanding into large-scale developments.
The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) has undoubtedly benefited house builders with its ‘golden thread’ of a presumption in favour of development – this allows the redevelopment and conversion of industrial/brownfield sites, office and agricultural buildings, as well as greenfield sites, usually those situated on the edge of villages in areas where councils are unable to demonstrate a five-year year Housing Land Supply.
We are pleased to see the opportunities for small to medium-size house builders grow, however, we also maintain that many of the traditional opportunities present continuing and also growing opportunities. These opportunities are potentially found in the backyards of these companies, and Apex Planning Consultants regularly finds itself perfectly located in respect to these sites, meaning we are able to serve your needs.
If you are an individual, small or medium-sized house builder and wish to discuss your proposed development and the likelihood of obtaining planning permission, then feel free to speak with us without obligation.