One in three homes ‘go unbuilt despite planning approval’

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One in three homes due to be built in Yorkshire during the past five years has not been completed, Shelter has found.

More than 27,000 “phantom homes” have failed to materialise despite having been granted residential planning permission, according to analysis by the housing charity, which said working families were bearing the brunt of the issue.

It claimed the country’s housebuilding system encouraged developers to sit on land and drip out new homes, to keep prices high.

Across the region, an estimated 66 per cent of homes with planning permission had been completed over the past five years, Shelter calculated.

It said the problem was even worse in London, where only around half the homes with permission have been built.

Nationally, 320,000 homes are said to be awaiting construction.

But the Home Builders Federation, which represents construction firms, said the supply of new homes was growing and that planning delays meant permissions could take years to process to the point where construction could start.

Shelter said it had factored into its calculations a one-year time lag between a home being given the go-ahead and the build being completed. It said that but for its allowance, its “phantom homes” figure would have been higher.

The charity used figures from the government’s Department for Communities, among other data, to make its calculations.

It said the Government must “get tough” and hand powers to councils to tax those who do not build fast enough, and grant planning permission to developers based on their track record.

Anne Baxendale, head of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “House-builders are trickling out a handful of poor-quality homes at a snail’s pace, meaning there are simply not enough affordable homes and ordinary working families are bearing the brunt.”

David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said housing supply had risen by more than 50 per cent in the last three years, with most coming from national house builders.

He said: “While headline planning permission data is growing at unprecedented rates, a reflection of builders’ intention to build more in the coming years, the majority of this land is not at a stage at which it can yet be built on. Delays in the planning system mean permissions can take years to process, especially on very large sites.”

He added that the “cost and risk” involved in securing planning permission had hampered the ability of small firms to grow, while larger firms had dedicating “significant resource to navigating the process.”

Mr O’Leary said many “of these so-called phantom homes” would be plots on sites where construction was under way.

He said: “Oversimplified and ideologically driven analysis distracts from the efforts of builders large and small, public and private, to tackle the housing crisis.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Government has been clear that we want to tackle barriers to stalled developments, so we are investing £2.3 billion to deliver the infrastructure needed to support new homes.

“We know the build out of sites remains slow, that’s why in our housing white paper we’ve set out a number measures to speed up delivery including a new housing delivery test to ensure new homes get built on time and give councils a range of tools to make this happen.”