SME housebuilders already face certain barriers to growth such as access to land, the poor planning process and access to finance (read our ebook on the top 3 barriers facing SME builders). SME’s make up a large part of the UK economy and require more active support if they are to get back to pre-1990’s housebuilding volumes which in today’s housing shortage is more prevalent than ever.
Now politicians are calling to make life easier for SME housebuilders through a roster of planning reforms which include local authority planning capabilities.
A report released by the All Party Parliamentary Group for SME House Builders (APPG) has published replies from questions asked to many of its members and gathered their thoughts and ideas on how the current planning system might be changed to benefit SME housebuilders.
Members made the following observations and recommendations to improve the current planning system;
• 300,000 new homes a year – We need to increase the supply of new homes
• Invest in LPA staff for long term payback
• Delivery of National Infrastructure projects
• More certainty and consistency in the planning system
• Design Reviews
• Delegation to Officers
• More affordable housing
• Better guidance and closer links – More guidance should be provided on how to deliver ‘small sites’, i.e. those of 10 units are under
• Small Site Register – A small sites register is one way that Local Authorities could respond more quickly to failing to meet local housing need and assist SME housebuilders in delivery
• Strategic sites % to SME housebuilders – On strategic sites, a certain % of delivery should be earmarked for local SME housebuilder delivery
• Utilities made to assist SME housebuilders – For the SME housebuilders to provide more support for renewables
• 26-week Planning Guarantee
• Upfront fees to Local Authorities – Consideration was also given to the issue of upfront fees, with several submissions suggesting that these be deferred until a decision in some cases
• Trained and better-informed Councillors
• Cost of environmental initiatives
• Housing supply legal duty on Local Authorities
• Training for future planning professionals
Popular belief is that the key to changing the current situation for SME’s is to change the way we invest in our young people. If we stimulate our students and provide them with industry-led thinking then we empower them to challenge the views of industry academics and give them the skills to understand planning requirements from an Economic, Environmental and Social standpoint.
There is even suggestion of a university course which would give students greater exposure to the “working world” and attend such things as team meetings, design review panels, public exhibitions, site visits so they can gain a greater understanding of the whole planning process.