Rapleys expert comments on new UK planning statistics

The UK’s Q4 2017 planning statistics have been released this week by the Government, the top-line numbers show that district level planning authorities:

  • granted 380,300 decisions, down one per cent on the year ending December 2016;
  • granted 49,600 decisions on residential developments: 6,500 for major developments and 43,100 for minors, up on the year ending December 2016 by three per cent and one per cent respectively; and
  • granted 10,200 applications for commercial developments, down nine per cent on the year ending December 2016.

In line with the previous issues raised around PDR, in Q4 alone:

  • 1,400 applications were for PDR changes to residential use, of which 1,000 were given the go-ahead without having to go through the full planning process.

Also released were new build dwelling stats, see here. This shows that:

  • On a quarterly basis, new build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 41,280 (seasonally adjusted) in the latest quarter, a 5 per cent increase compared to the previous 3 months and a 1 per cent decrease on a year earlier.
  • Completions were estimated at 42,860 (seasonally adjusted), 7 per cent higher than the previous quarter and 17 per cent higher than a year ago.

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at consultancy Rapleys, commented:

“Much of the government’s narrative to-date, including around the NPPF reforms, suggests they see two key, in some respects contradictory, issues inhibiting housing delivery. On the one hand, ‘nimby’ local councils withholding permission, and, on the other, developers holding onto land that has permission.

“However, taken at face value today’s statistics show that new build completions increased 17% in Q4 2017 compared to the previous year – so things seem to be moving in the right direction, and it strongly suggests that developers are not holding back from delivering housing. Hopefully the Letwin review will help further demonstrate this, and the conversation will move on.

“At the same time, the reported downturn for planning approvals on commercial developments in 2017, compared to 2016, is a key issue to watch. While housing undeniably needs to continue to be a priority for central and local government, it is critical that commercial development is not cut out of the conversation, with the risk being that land uses that can have a dramatic impact on local employment and service provision are ignored.”