RICS welcomes “collaborative” tone of Letwin interim report

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has responded positively to the interim report by Sir Oliver Letwin looking at obstacles to housing delivery in the planning system, saying it has a more collaborative tone than the Prime Minister’s recent comments about the industry.

Originally announced in the Autumn Budget, the review, led by Sir Oliver Letwin, will “look to explain the gap between the number of planning permissions being granted against those built in areas of high demand”. Until July 2016, only half of the 684,000 homes with planning permission had been completed. The interim report was published yesterday, and the full report is due to be published this Autumn.

Lewis Johnston, RICS parliamentary affairs manager commented: “RICS is encouraged by Sir Oliver’s interim report, which highlights how complex the planning and delivery processes have become and the many constraints builders face. Hearteningly, it sets a collaborative note that is very different to the Prime Minister’s recent call on builders to ‘do their duty’. Sir Oliver and his team are clearly intent on working with the sector to identify solutions.”

“A number of market dynamics are pinpointed in the report, such as absorption rates, which is the maximum number of homes that can be sold based on current prices, and gross development value. He also underlines the wish to gather views from industry participants and others to deepen his understanding of the main issues.”

He added: “If the private sector is not delivering the volume of homes needed then ultimately it’s the government’s job to widen participation as a means to find other ways of plugging the gap – we can’t simply implore and rely on volume housebuilders to build more.

“The only proven way the UK has ever built anywhere near 300,000 new homes a year is when the public sector has been fully enabled as a key delivery agent. That’s why RICS has called on the government to fully lift the borrowing restrictions that are currently holding back local authorities.”

RICS has already provided evidence to the inquiry and Johnstone said it will continue to do so.