476,000 homes in England go unbuilt by speculators

476,000 homes in England go unbuilt to save speculators’ market

‘Mark’, Council planning department worker

New research shows a record 475,647 homes in England have planning permission but are yet to be built. The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils to central government, released the figures on 7 January.

Also, according to the LGA, developers are taking longer to complete work on site. It now takes 32 months, on average, from receiving planning permission to building work being completed. This is 12 months longer than in 2007-08.

Meanwhile the construction industry’s forecasted annual recruitment need is up 54% from 2013. But there are 10,000 fewer construction qualifications awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities.

Typically, developers and housebuilders blame local planning departments for failing to process quickly enough, and not approving enough applications. This is simply not true.

The number of applications granted permission in 2014-15 was 212,468. This is up from 187,605 in 2007-08, and higher than all previous years. In fact, local authorities approve 90% of all planning applications.

In council workplaces up and down the country, a target-driven culture is becoming the norm. Management applies huge pressure to staff to turn around planning applications more quickly than ever.

Such pressure means that increasingly demoralised and stressed workers become robots. We are focussed only on targets and numbers. We are not able to properly assess developments, to ensure they are well-designed and sustainable.

There are enough properties built on paper – in unimplemented planning permissions – to solve the housing crisis and provide decent homes for everyone. However, capitalism cannot deliver the houses we need, because building is the domain of big business. Bosses are fixated on short-term profit rather than the long-term needs of the majority.


Indeed, developers don’t want to actually build the houses we need. If they did, Britain’s astonishingly overinflated housing market would crash, and their profits would be hit. They would much rather speculate against the value of the land with planning permissions.

The profit motive has gutted efficiency and led to substandard design and corner-cutting. A socialist plan would nationalise these big construction companies and developers – under the democratic control of workers and the wider community.