Small is beautiful: delivering more homes through small sites
New research produced by the FMB and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has revealed some of the barriers to developing small sites and makes a set of practical recommendations on how local authorities and SME builders can work together to overcome these.
Among other findings, the surveys found that:
- 64% of builders and 45% of local authorities see under-resourcing of planning departments as a barrier to developing more small sites
- 87% of local authority respondents said that they did not think the Government would reach its housing targets with current resourcing levels.
- More than half of councils deliver fewer than 40% of homes on small sites
- 79% of SME builders think the planning application for small sites is ‘too heavy-handed’
- 55% of local authority respondents said that the quality of planning applications for small sites is often poor
- 80% of SME builders said that local authorities in their area do not proactively communicate or engage with them
The report makes a number of key recommendations, including:
- Councils should improve their strategic engagement with SME house builders, including where possible by establishing developer forums, online portals and workshops.
- Councils should seek to reduce complexity and uncertainty in the application process, through the use of coordinating codes, and better early engagement.
- Central Government should give councils the power to set and vary planning fees locally where extra revenue can be ring-fenced and good service levels guaranteed.
- Central Government should consider establishing a pilot “Small Sites Expert Task Force” to develop best practice and act as a source of expert advice on small sites.
- Councils should use their land assets creatively, including giving consideration to the use of direct commissioning, joint ventures and deferred payment models.
- Councils should seek to broker, where feasible, relationships between small builders and private landowners.