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Britain Lacks Millions of Homes Due to Tight Planning Laws, Says Think Tank - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 22, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Britain would have an extra 4.3 million homes if its strict planning laws were more like those elsewhere in Europe, a study said Wednesday.

The Centre for Cities, a think tank, blamed the UK’s “outdated” planning system for sluggish housebuilding rates going back decades. Existing regulation, established under the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, allows local authorities to reject developers’ applications even if they adhere to rules.

Housebuilding rates in England and Wales fell 40% following the laws, according to the research group, from an annual growth of 2% between 1856 and 1939, to just 1.2% between 1947 and 2019.

The findings highlight a shortage of housing in the UK, which comes alongside inflated property prices and soaring rents in cities such as London.

“UK planning policy has held back the economy for nearly three quarters of a century, stifling growth and exacerbating a housing crisis that has blighted the country,” said Andrew Carter, the Centre for Cities’ chief executive officer.

Housing supply fell behind other European countries in the decades following the Town and Country Planning Act, the report said. Between 1955 and 1979, the UK dedicated an average 3.3% of GDP per year to building new homes, compared with 5.1% in the Netherlands, 6.2% in Finland and also considerably lower than in France and West Germany.

Read More: Sunak Caves In to Tory Pressure on UK Housebuilding Targets

In order to close the backlog with the Continent, the research group estimates England needs to build 442,000 new homes annually over the next 25 years – double the current rate. The UK government recently watered down a target of 300,000 new homes per year.

“Big problems require big solutions and if the government is to clear its backlog of unbuilt homes, it must first deliver planning reform,” added Carter. “Failure to do this will only continue to limit England’s housebuilding potential and prevent millions from getting on the property ladder.”


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