Planning chiefs warn against ‘use it or lose it’ policy for house-builders’ land

The heads of planning at a City law firm and leading property consultancy have warned against forcing house-builders to sell off undeveloped land with planning permission.

Treasury officials are considering a ‘use it or lose it’ policy on land owned by house-builders to help speed up the delivery of new homes.

The idea was first put forward by former Labour party Ed Miliband in 2013, who wanted unused sites to be sold to councils.

But planning experts are calling on the Chancellor to reject the proposals and instead look at other measures to improve housing delivery.

Charles Mills, head of planning at property consultants Daniel Watney LLP, said greater support was need for small and specialist developers to boost supply.

Marnix Elsenaar, head of planning at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, argued the solution to Britain’s housing woes is unlocking public land for residential development.

Charles Mills, head of planning at Daniel Watney LLP, said:

“The government is right to try and speed up the delivery of new homes, but interfering with the land market isn’t the answer.”

“Rather than penalising volume house builders, the government should be looking to diversify sources of housing supply, giving greater support to SMEs and also specialist build-to-rent developers, who can bring homes to the market far quicker than traditional for sale house builders.”

Marnix Elsenaar, head of planning at Addleshaw Goddard, said:

“The key to getting unused land developed is making that development financially viable – not threatening house builders.”

“A large amount of undeveloped land is owned by the public sector but two thirds of it lies in areas that aren’t particularly well-off. The solution here will be incentivising developers in non-affluent areas. Unlocking this land will require innovative arrangements to make the sites more attractive, such as fast-tracked planning, reduced development levies or a commitment to provide necessary infrastructure enabling communities to be created.”