Strict housing rules needed to stop developers ‘land banking’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 August 2015

Archant

A HOUSING shortage in North Somerset is leading to growing difficulty for first-time buyers – and one of the district’s leaders is hoping the Government will step in to help combat the issue.

North Somerset Council’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees has said the Government needs to ‘focus on delivery’ and put more restrictions in place to stop developers from holding back on building projects.

A report in the Mercury last week found a would-be first-time buyer would need to be earning £49,000 a year to get a mortgage.

Cllr Ap Rees said: “We want the Government to focus on delivery and not allow developers to land bank.

“We know developers hold back housing construction to keep the market, and the prices, high.

“(Developers) need to get on and build the houses they already have planning permission for.

“I believe this would make houses more affordable and help first-time buyers.

“We also think developers should be charged rates on properties based on the grant of planning permission – not when occupied – to discourage land banking.”

Even though planning permission expires after five years, Cllr Ap Rees highlighted it is difficult to reject renewal applications, and said: “In effect, they have got planning permission in perpetuity.”

The authority is still waiting for a final figure to be decided for its core strategy – a planning document which states how many homes need to be built in the district between 2006 and 2026 – but the decision is not expected until mid-September.

Until then a freeze has been put on making any decisions for planning applications of 10 houses or more.

Cllr Ap Rees said: “In the mean time we are obviously having to look at our options.

“We have got lots of planning applications either in, or at the pre-application stage.

“We are supposed to make decisions within so many weeks, so some of those will come up to that deadline.”

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