One in four homes granted planning permission go unbuilt

New research has shown that more than 380,000 homes granted planning permission between 2011 and 2019 remain unbuilt – accounting for 40 per cent of all homes with planning consent in England.

Housing charity Shelter’s analysis of data from the government and the House Builders Federation reveals the backlog of unbuilt homes has grown by a further 100,000 in the last year alone. This shows planning permission is not the primary stumbling block to getting homes built – and is why Shelter is arguing that the government’s new planning reforms will not boost housebuilding by themselves.

The charity is urging the government to use its upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to accelerate spending on social housing and turbo-charge construction in the face of the Covid recession. Social housing is the only type of housing that is affordable by design with rents pegged to local income, which would serve the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "The chronic shortage of decent, genuinely affordable homes in this country is one that must be fixed. But the government’s planning reforms fundamentally misdiagnose the problem.   The idea that the planning system is stopping homes being built is a myth. Across the country hundreds of thousands of “phantom homes” sit on sites with planning permission fully approved. Rubber stamps are no replacement for direct investment in high-quality housing.  

“The government must roll up its sleeves and build the homes local communities really need, now more than ever in the face of a Covid-recession. It should spend the cash its set aside for housing that much faster and start building social homes now. The only way we are going to start building what we need is through pounds not planning.”