Small is beautiful
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.