Reports on Reports

Following on from many other bodies producing similar reports, the DCLG Select Committee have published their report on capacity in the housebuilding industry this week.  There’s been a bit of a glut of similar reports with the authors of previous reports being quoted in the latest DCLG report.   Here’s the list so far…

February 2016 The Lyons Commission’s Update Report.
July 2016 Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs report on Building More Homes, 
July 2016 The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment‘s More Homes, Fewer Complaints, 
November 2016 The Redfern Review into the decline of home ownership
November 2016 ResPublica’s Going to Scale, Building the Homes We Need
November 2016 Shelter – The Case for Greater Land Market Transparency
December 2016 LGA’s Housing Commission Report on Building Our Homes, Communities and Future.
December 2016 Joint report by Federation of Master Builders and Local Government Intelligence Unit Small is beautiful: delivering more homes through small sites
January 2017 House Builders Federation Reversing the Decline of Small Builders: Reinvigorating Entrepreneurialism and Building More Homes
February 2017 RTPI Position Paper Better Planning for Housing Affordability
March 2017 Shelter – Policy Briefing New Civic Housebuilding: rediscovering our tradition of building beautiful and affordable homes

 

The DCLG’s report is quite readable and, in many ways, draws together lots of the issues that have already been identified.  It’s all quite familiar…highly concentrated industry, more SMEs, too much focus on large sites, planning costs and delays, build out rates, skills shortages, land market transparency, more resources for planning departments etc.   I took a few nuggets from it.

It seems that there’s a German housing supply Mittlestand.   According to the Association of German Building Industry that companies with less than 50 employees carry out 81 per cent of all residential development in Germany!!!   Sorry for all the exclamation marks – but it’s a remarkable contrast to the dominance of the national housebuilders in the UK.

Housing supplied through permitted development rights can be quite poor quality.  The report noted for example a recent case in Barnet where it is proposed that an eleven storey office tower be turned into 254 flats, 96 per cent of which would be below the national minimum space standard. The proposal has generated media interest as some of the flats would be 40 per cent smaller than the average room in a budget hotel!!! (Sorry)

It’s not news that planners get a bad press in the UK but, apparently, planners are hot stuff in the Netherlands !!! Really?  According to David Cowans, Chief Executive of the Places for People housing association,

The status of planning is crucial in this country… If you are a planner in the Netherlands, you are hot stuff, frankly. If you are a planner here, you are looking at somebody’s conservatory. That is the kind of image it has. It ought not to have that image … the job evaluation should be done on the multi-million-pound responsibilities and not on how many people you have, and we have to do something about the status of planners.

The serious point is that there seem to be a consensus about the problems.  However, most of the proposed solutions could, it was acknowledged, generate even more problems

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