Leading land agent Aston Mead has welcomed the preliminary findings of an independent review into housebuilding, being carried out by former Conservative policy chief Sir Oliver Letwin.
Back in November last year, Sir Oliver was asked by the Chancellor Philip Hammond to identify and reduce the gap between the number of properties given planning permission, and those which are actually built.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Adam Hesse said: “Sir Oliver’s review concludes what we’ve been saying all along. Not only do we need to build faster, we also need to put a greater variety of homes in the mix. People are turning to the second hand market to find homes for retirement or student accommodation, when they should be able to find new-build versions of these homes as well.
“Developers need to widen their understanding of what people out there are looking for – and it should be more than just a choice of either a three bedroom house with a bay window, or one with four bedrooms.”
Adam Hesse says that small and medium sized developers are perfectly placed to bring these different types of accommodation to the market, making use of sites that simply would not interest the larger developers.
He explains: “The Letwin report makes it quite clear that there is no evidence of land banking taking place. Instead, the fundamental driver of build-out rates is the ‘absorption rate’ – the speed at which those homes can be sold into the market without materially disturbing the market price.
“It’s entirely reasonable and understandable that developers don’t want to flood the market with too many homes at any one time because doing so would depress prices. But what they can do is accelerate the absorption rate by offering more housing of varying types, designs and tenures. The settings, landscapes and streetscapes should also be more distinct, and so appeal to a greater range of housebuyers – meaning that the overall build out rates could be increased, without impacting on the market price of any of them.
“None of this takes away from the fact that we need simpler planning regulations, more staff in planning departments, and a huge increase in bricklayers. But these suggestions in the interim report are a sensible start, and we await Sir Oliver’s final report in the autumn with interest.”