Developers who fail to build new homes face ‘use it or lose it’ tax

Developers will face new “use it or lose it” taxes for failing to build homes on land that already has planning permission amid concerns that more than 1.1 million have been left unbuilt in the past ten years.

[So who is going to be lobbying against this? – Please form an orderly queue. Owl]

George Grylls,

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, is considering the levy as the government oversees the biggest shake-up of the planning system for 70 years.

About 2.8 million homes have been given the green light for construction since 2010-11, but only 1.6 million have been built, according to analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Critics have claimed that such “land banking” has artificially kept house prices high and deprived first-time buyers of the chance to get on the property ladder. Housebuilders have rejected this analysis, and dismissed land banking as a myth.

Ministers are privately considering different ways to encourage higher rates of building. Under one proposal housebuilders would pay full council tax on all the properties in a project from one to two years after securing planning permission, regardless of whether they have been built.

There has been a backlash from Tory MPs over Jenrick’s proposals to deregulate the planning system, with backbenchers in traditional Tory southern seats angered that existing homeowners will no longer be able to object to individual planning applications.

The Planning Bill, introduced in this week’s Queen’s Speech, will designate land for growth or protection. Applications for homes in growth areas will automatically get a green light, while developments in protection areas will face greater challenges. A third regeneration zone is still under consideration.

The new taxes will go some way to appeasing Tory backbenchers, some of whom have privately attacked the government’s Planning Bill as a “developers’ charter”.

This week Lady May, the former prime minister, defended the planning system in a speech to the Commons and urged reform of the housebuilding sector instead. “I fear that, unless the government look again at the white paper proposals, what we will see is not more homes but, potentially, the wrong homes being built in the wrong places,” she said.

“Underpinning the proposals seems to be the concept that the reason more homes are not being built is the planning system. In fact, the last figure I saw from the Local Government Association showed that one million homes have been given planning permission but have yet to be built, so the issue is not just about the planning system.”

About nine in ten applications are granted planning permission and local authorities approve double the number of homes as ten years ago, according to the LGA. David Renard, its housing spokesman, said: “By giving councils the right powers to incentivise developers to get building once planning permission has been granted, we can go further and faster. Councils are granting permission for hundreds of thousands of homes but families who desperately need housing cannot live in a planning permission.”

CPRE, the countryside charity formerly known as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, has previously demanded levies on developers who fail to build. Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director, said: “In the eye of an affordable housing crisis we need a ‘use it or lose it’ approach. The countryside is central in our response to the climate and nature emergencies and we simply can’t afford to keep releasing more and more land unnecessarily for speculative development.”

Straitgate Farm quarry application “final submission of additional information” sneaks in “under Owl’s radar”.

The Straitgate Farm quarry planning application for:

“Extraction of up to 1.5 million tonnes of as raised sand and gravel, restoration to agricultural land together with temporary change of use of a residential dwelling to a quarry office/welfare facility” 

was considered by DCC in 2017 who requested additional information, with a published consultation expiry date of 16/05/21. 

Aggregate Industries have now lodged information (see below) but from what Owl gleans from the excellent Straitgate Action Group blog, this fails to address all the issues and leaves little time for detailed comment.

Owl has received correspondence expressing concern over the lack of publicity on this new information e.g. within Ottery St Mary Town Council; and clarity with regard to opportunity to comment on the details. The Action Group Blog indicates the need for both further information and a formal consultation.

To be on the safe side Owl suggests concerned residents immediately lodge a comment with DCC regarding the inadequacy of the “final” submission and the need for further formal consultation.

Contact details are in last paragraph below, reference DCC/3944/2017. A full list of correspondence (most dating from 2017) can be found here. (You may need to “accept” privacy statement and conditions, before automatic transfer to the application page, then click on “associated documents”. This link can also be used for submitting comments)

AI’s “final submission of additional information” prompts another consultation 

On 5 March 2021, Aggregate Industries lodged what it called its “final submission of additional information” in respect of planning application DCC/3944/2017 to quarry Straitgate Farm, saying: 

We would now ask that our application is progressed to the next available committee and confirm our agreement to a time extension until the 31st July 2021 in order to achieve this.   

This additional information was originally requested almost 4 years ago, but seemingly it still didn’t tick all the boxes that Devon County Council had wanted. On 11 March 2021, Devon County Council wrote back to Aggregate Industries saying: 

Additional information is required to determine the associated application at Straitgate Farm reference DCC/3944/2017… I am writing to ask you to formally agree to extend the period for the determination of your application until 30 September 2021. You have indicated this will give you adequate time. 

Despite the above, no further information has been provided beyond that final submission. 

On 7 April 2021, Aggregate Industries wrote to Devon County Council again, this time saying:

We would now ask that our application is progressed to the next available committee and confirm our agreement to a time extension until the 30th September 2021 in order to achieve this.    

Devon County Council has now started a new 30-day public consultation on this application and also DCC/3945/2017 which seeks to import the as-dug sand and gravel from Straitgate Farm into Hillhead Quarry near Uffculme for processing – a 2.5 million-mile operation

How the public are supposed to wade through the disparate collection of documents and muddle is anybody’s guess. You might have hoped – in all the intervening years – that Aggregate Industries would have done some serious thinking about this application, that it would have all its ducks aligned. But no. This final submission contains the normal assortment of nonsense, omissions, falsity and contradictions.

We therefore conclude that any increase in animal or farm traffic crossing this road is a direct consequence of the current planning application and needs to be assessed as a part of the highways impacts.

Remarkably, but tellingly, no assessment has been lodged on what impact 150 cows crossing four times daily would have on the functioning of the main road into and out of Ottery St Mary. The application lodged with East Devon District Council to facilitate such a crossing remains undetermined.

The final submission supplied by Aggregate Industries includes: 

LANDSCAPE & SOILS: Set of revised plans to accompany above report, which supersede the previously submitted versions of all the following plans 

CLIMATE CHANGE: Greenhouse Gas Assessment of the Proposed Quarry at Straitgate Farm, Centre for Energy and the Environment, Exeter University, March 2021 

RESOURCE ASSESSMENT: Straitgate Quarry (Prospect): Resource Assessment, February 2021. 

Comments on this final submission, or any other part of the applications, should be made to Devon County Council, either online or by email to including name, address and the reference numbers above.