BMF, MPs and SMEs call for planning investment

20 July 2020

MP Andrew LewerMore investment is needed urgently in the planning function of local authorities, and in the training of planners and other related professionals, if the industry is to build anywhere near 300,000 new homes per year. That is not just the view of the BMF - but also MPs keen to showcase and promote smaller firms as vital players in the mix of housing solutions.

This is one of several recommendations of a report published this week in the House of Commons by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for SME Housebuilders. Members were asked what the problems with the planning system are - and what the solutions may be. It found that staff shortages in local planning authorities were the top issue faced by SME house-builders.

Chairman Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South, unveiled the report that describes ways to improve planning permission from the perspective of users - SME builders and developers.  The aim of the Group is to provide answers to Parliament and Government on how England can deliver more and better new homes, especially through SME builders and developers.

Andrew Lewer MP said:

“Who better to ask how the planning system can be improved than the people building, or seeking to build, the new houses?  Furthermore, who better to ask than the SME house-builders and their partners in the housing industry? The quality and the quantity of the responses we received underline the on-going success of this APPG. People who really know what they are talking about have given their time and effort towards this report. We as MPs will try our best to ensure that it both gets into the right hands and into as many hands as possible”.

This APPG report was launched ahead of the Government’s much-anticipated Planning White Paper. Participants were clear in wanting more investment in planning departments to ensure that promises to “Build, Build, Build” are taken literally and completions are accelerated.

Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, attended and said afterwards:

“The BMF welcomes efforts to mobilise SMEs who are the customers of merchants. The APPG recommendations are consistent with the BMF’s own views. We want to see unrelenting determination to simplify and speed up the process to narrow the gap between demand & supply”.

Other strong themes emerged from this report:
-     a small sites register to help local councils respond more quickly to any failure to meet local housing need and assist SME house-builders to deliver;
-     a certain percentage of land on strategic sites delivery should be earmarked for local SMEs
-     more efforts to delegate planning applications to officers to determine - in accordance with planning policy - rather than elected members.