Smaller house builders held back by lack of land

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Smaller house builders are struggling to find land suitable for development, according to new research.

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) annual House Builders’ Survey found that a ‘lack of available and viable land’ is the biggest barrier to delivering new homes for two thirds of smaller house builders.

Half see the planning system and difficulties in accessing finance as other serious challenges, while 40 per cent believe the construction skills crisis is a major problem.

The under-resourcing of local authority planning departments is considered the most important cause of delays in the planning process.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The biggest challenge facing SME house builders is the planning process. Councils need to find a way of allocating and granting planning permission for more small sites.

“The current focus on large sites is squeezing out smaller developers, which is reducing competition in the housing market at a time when we need more, not less, choice.”

Berry added that recent government reforms had yet to have an impact: “It is absurd that the planning system treats a 300 home application in largely the same way it treats a three home application.

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“While the Government has attempted to remove red tape in its drive to increase the number of homes being built, it would appear that its reforms have yet to make a difference.

“95 per cent of SME house builders report that the information demands being placed on them during the planning application process have either increased or remain as bad as they were before.

“Our survey shows that the primary cause of unnecessary delays is the planning process, with the under-resourcing of planning departments being the most important concern.”