Developers could be fined for not developing sites with permission says Govt Minister

“Housing minister Gavin Barwell told MPs that the government is considering publishing league table on the performance of developers showing how many homes they are building.

This would enable councils – and activist investors – to hold the major developers to account and end claims of landbanking.

Barwell discussed the idea during evidence to the Commons communities and local government committee on the recent housing White paper and plans to speed up housebuilding.

The minister revealed the idea of fining developers for not turning sites into homes had been ruled out.

But league tables – including their record of turning sites into developments – “should be a determination” that allows councils assess the record of developer in building out permissions.

“There is a balance to be had. If it was too draconian, the effect would be chilling,” he said.

The minister accepted developers needed to have land in reserve to be able to start sites as a development finishes. But he wants to reduce the time taken from purchase to build by the main private developers which is currently five years.

He also questioned if developers were too risk averse with sites. On a site with the potential of 1,000 homes only around 70 would be built in order protect the company’s financial position.

Barwell said: “The main way that we reduce landbanking is to speed up the planning system. But my real concern is once you start.”

Other plans include a major review of how taxes on developments are decided.

His department and the Treasury are looking at a nationally set charge that would be locally collected locally spent by councils.

Barwell revealed a review of the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 agreements will be included in the autumn Budget.

“It’s something we need to address,” Barwell said. “There is a lot of dissatisfaction with how the current system works. But what we don’t want to lose is the localism element of how money is spent.”

There was good news for local authority planning departments which have been hit by staff cuts caused by austerity cuts.

Barwell said the government was looking at enabling councils to increase planning fees to cover the whole cost of running their teams. Where some councils had major regeneration projects, they would not only be able to raise more money from applicants but his department would look at targeted intervention where some LAs need support.

“I’m clearly on the side of getting more money spent on those planning departments. Local authority planning departments are under-resourced,” he said.

The biggest controversy in the White Paper had been over the future of green belt land. …”