Almost 11,000 homes with planning permission in Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are yet to be built, it has been revealed.
Data published recently, and reported in the East Anglian Daily Times showed that there were 59 stalled development sites in Babergh totalling 4,703 homes, with a further 6,224 homes yet to be built across 77 stalled sites in Mid Suffolk.
David Burn, Mid Suffolk’s planning cabinet member, said: “Stalled sites are a problem – we do what we can to chivvy developers along but it doesn’t often have satisfactory results. The government is aware of the problem and there are some planning innovations coming up within the next year or two that might help to address this.”
What is the cause of stalled sites?
There could be a number of reasons behind housing sites not commencing development despite having planning permission. In some cases, a developer may hold off on selling a site until market conditions are more favourable, and there’s a likelihood of higher profitability. In other cases, it may be down to a delay in legal agreements or even an archaeological find on the site of the proposed development.
Councillors have also suggested that some developers in Suffolk operate on a “sell-to-build” basis, meaning they are relying on the sale of one building to finance the construction of another. The development of a whole site could therefore slow down or stall completely if the market conditions and financial viability aren’t right.
What is the solution?
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have put together a housing delivery action plan that outlines measures to kick-start construction of the stalled sites, while preventing similar delays to any approved developments in the future. The plan identifies three key ‘issue areas’ that need addressing to ensure developments can move forward:
Early Stallers– sites that have not yet received full planning permission despite a planning application – either full or outline – being submitted.
Condition Stallers– sites that are in the period between full planning permission being granted and all conditions being discharged, allowing construction to begin.
Late-Stage Stallers– sites that have reached the point when construction can commence, i.e. there are no further administrative requirements to be met.
Together, the councils have agreed on 23 action points designed to address low housing delivery rates and ensure the “right types of homes, of the right tenure, in the right location” are being built across the region. Some of the key action points are as follows:
- Regular engagement with the site promoters of “early staller sites”
- Engage with developers of sites where planning permission expires in 12 months, to understand what is needed to ensure the site is delivered
- A smarter and improved pre-application process
- Using compulsory purchase order powers, where appropriate, to unlock stalled sites and/or land allocations.
- Viability testing of proposed land allocations at the plan-making stage
- Producing a Joint Local Plan to provide clear policy and direction to all involved with site allocations that are deliverable, supported by an Infrastructure Delivery Plan
The Joint Local Plan for Babergh and Mid Suffolk, which is currently out for consultation, identifies a need for 17,568 new homes between 2018 and 2036, including 10,008 in Mid Suffolk and 7,560 in Babergh. This means the stalled sites currently account for more than 62% of the districts’ housing requirement.
Speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times, Andrew Stringer, opposition Green Party councillor, said: “There is a huge amount of work to be done in that plan and I think we should be further down the line. We have called for an officer to be part of the council to drill down into this and make sure when houses are approved they get delivered.”
He added: “We also want to see the district play a bigger role in building a lot more homes. Unless they are going to be building a couple of homes a week, they are not taking it seriously.”