Housebuilders accused of sitting on 600,000 plots of land

Britain’s biggest housebuilders possess enough land to create more than 600,000 new homes, an analysis by the Guardian has found, raising questions as to whether they are doing enough to solve the housing crisis facing Britain.

The nine housebuilders in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 hold 615,152 housing plots in their land bank, according to financial disclosures. This is four times the total number of homes built in Britain in the past year.

Whilst, on the face of it, the figures might appear shocking and some have been quick to point the finger at property developers, claiming that they are holding on to land with the intention of boosting their investment, equally there are others who suggest that a variety of pinch points in the construction process are responsible for the hold up in housebuilding.

Housebuilders have retaliated by arguing that they are, in effect working ‘flat out’ and every site where there is implementable planning consent is under construction.

There are claims that cutbacks within local councils – London for example has seen its planning department reduced by more than 50 per cent in the past five years – means that planning hold ups are partly to blame for not being able to build faster.

The industry also argues that it is building 40 per cent more homes than four years ago, when the industry was still recovering from the financial crisis, but a lack of skilled workers and materials, aka a ‘bricks and labour shortage’ are now hampering progress.

Adam Davis, a Palmers partner who specialises in construction matters, said: “The housebuilding sector is buoyant but that does not mean that it is trouble-free; far from it, in fact. As the industry struggles to cope with the many variables it is reliant upon, including materials, skilled workers and planning consent, it only needs just one of these to cause a log jam and the whole project grinds to a halt.

“As part of the Government’s measures to tackle the issue of growth and regeneration, local council planning departments, which are too slow in making decisions, can be bypassed. There have been a number of recent successes, both out of and in court, which has resulted in this particular issue being resolved.”

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