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Lack of homes not due to red tape say campaigners
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Government figures for housebuilding starts and completions during the three months ending June 2012 recently released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that although not as bad as they have been, they are still too low to keep up with demand for homes.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, commenting on the figures for the June quarter 2012 said “These figures demonstrate the widening scale of the problem in delivering sufficient new housing. Starts in England in the second quarter of the year dropped to just 21,540, the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2009. This decline in activity was visible both amongst private sector developers and housing associations.

“The paltry number of new starts over the last three months is barely one-third of what is generally accepted as the required number to meet the growing level of demand across the country and suggests that government measures taken to date including the New Homes Bonus is having little impact.

“There was speculation earlier this week about government measures to relax planning rules on affordable housing and it’s clear something bold is desperately needed to address the current housing crisis.”

•Seasonally adjusted house building starts in England stood at 21,540 in the June quarter 2012. This is 10 per cent lower than in the March quarter 2012.

•Completions (seasonally adjusted) also fell, down 6 per cent to 29,470 in the June quarter 2012.

•Private enterprise housing starts (seasonally adjusted) were 7 per cent lower in the June quarter 2012 than the previous quarter, whilst starts by housing associations were 23 per cent lower.

•Seasonally adjusted private enterprise completions fell by 5 per cent and housing association completions fell by 11 per cent from the previous quarter.

•Seasonally adjusted starts are now 27 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009 but 54 per cent below the December quarter 2005 peak. Completions are 39 per cent below their March quarter 2007 peak.

•Annual housing starts totalled 98,670 in the 12 months to June 2012, down by 10 per cent compared with the year before. Annual housing completions in England reached 118,330 in the 12 months to June 2012, an increase of 8 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.

The Council for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) denied that planning was to blame, and reacted strongly to reports that senior Ministers want to weaken the planning rules governing major infrastructure projects to allow building in the Green Belt.

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, said “Reports that senior Ministers are contemplating a new Bill to sweep away planning controls are deeply worrying. There have been three significant reforms of the planning system since the Coalition took office, and Ministers should give them time to take effect rather than embarking on yet another upheaval.

“As for the idea that Green Belt protection needs to be weakened to boost economic growth, the Government has made clear time and again that it will protect the Green Belt, and any attempt to weaken it will go down very badly with Government MPs. In fact, there is growing evidence of harmful new development being promoted within the Green Belt. The Green Belt needs to be strengthened, not weakened.”

Spiers continued: “The country does need many, many more new homes than we are currently building, but there is no evidence that the planning system is stopping us building them. We are not building enough new homes because individuals cannot get mortgages and public investment in new housing is inadequate.

“It is the job of the planning system to stop inappropriate development. We should remember the words of the former Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell, who spoke about the need to be clear about the purpose of planning reform: ‘If it is to boost GDP, then the answer is simple: concrete over the South East. But of course that’s not what we want and that’s because you would have to be an idiot to want to maximise GDP. It’s a highly flawed measure and I am pleased that we are at last starting to think more broadly about how as a society we measure success.’”

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