With the new Conservative-LibDem coalition government setting out its stall for the next parliamentary session, property developers and building companies are anxiously waiting to see what can be done to improve the sluggish state of British construction.
Although some 4.5 million people are currently on waiting lists for housing – a record number –fewer houses are actually being built than at any time since World War II, and the recent collapse in the value of development land cannot be blamed for the entirety of the problem.
Property developers have repeatedly complained about the long-winded and complex planning process that is currently required before construction can begin – and government proposals to give local councils increased powers in relation to planning could increase the red tape burden.
Planning and urban regeneration experts are calling on ministers to ensure that any planned changes to the UK planning regime are properly trialled and tested before being rolled out nationally, in order to prevent the stifling of any recovery in the building market.
“A swifter and more flexible planning process is needed, together with a sustained increase in property prices, to enable currently mothballed sites to be developed,” Guy Jenkinson of property consultants Bidwells told the Independent newspaper.
“This scenario could be hampered by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative plan to give more power to local government in planning decisions and is of concern to house builders who perceive a lengthening of the already lengthy planning process.”
Other concerns among property developers revolve around “green” proposals from the new government. Although the industry generally welcomes a focus on sustainable development and carbon neutrality, such measures could hamper a recovering property market.