August 13, 2020

Planning reform must have small builders at its heart, says FMB

Planning reforms are key to fixing the housing crisis, but more attention is needed on supporting local authorities to improve their ability to respond to planning demands, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the ‘Planning for the Future’ announcement made today (Thursday 12th March). 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The current planning system is a major barrier for small house builders, so today’s announcement that it will be brought into the 21st century through digitisation and simplification is a victory for common sense. I’m pleased to learn that the Secretary of State will engage particularly with small to medium-sized (SME) house builders to ensure the new system works for them. Key to increasing the volume and quality of new homes coming through is reversing the decline in small house builders.

“That the Government has also made the decision to intervene in local authorities’ plan-making processes by setting a 2023 deadline to update their local plans is helpful. A recent Public Accounts Committee report found that fewer than half of local authorities had an up-to-date local plan, which goes to show that inaction is hampering housing numbers.

“More detail is needed in terms of how local authorities plan to provide a good quality service to SMEs. While linking fees to performance and offering rebates to developers is a step in the right direction, local authorities need support to get the basics right. That means a dedicated phone number where house builders can get through to someone, the ability to arrange meetings that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and regular, good-quality communication. The FMB stands ready to support this review and reform process.” 

Key statistics 

– 42% of SME house builders reported that the planning process was the single biggest obstacle to them building more homes; 

– For the fourth year in a row SMEs cited inadequate resourcing of planning departments as the most significant cause of delay in the planning process;  

– Excessive information requirements are the biggest cause of cost for SMEs; 

– When asked whether they had seen an improvement in the speed and delivery of local planning departments since fees were increased by 20% in 2018, only 3% of SMEs said “yes”;  

– In the 1980s SMEs built two-thirds of all new homes, now it is just 23%.