Whilst browsing through my July issue of The Planner, I came across a rather refreshing article – an interview with Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), who represents thousands of small-medium sized (SME) UK construction firms.
The article asks the question, are small builders the answer to our housing crisis?
With the release in February of the latest housing white paper, the Government has finally realised that a way to ease our housing crisis is to use more SME builders. If implemented, this one change to the system of allocating a range of sites including small parcels of land would go some way in addressing our housing problems.
The FMB agrees with the white paper and believes small and medium sized house builders can make a much bigger contribution to the building of new homes if smaller plots of land were made available to the smaller construction firms.
Today, many local authority house plans (outside of National Parks,) allocate larger sites which are far beyond the reach of our smaller building firms and which only larger firms can take on due to the large costs in development. Smaller land allocation plots and less ‘red tape’ will help SME builders plug the gap to try and meet our ever-growing need for additional housing.
Is there a catch to this proposed change in strategy…YES! Anyone involved in the preparation of local plans will testify to the lengthy, resource intensive process of evidence gathering, consultation and assessment of sites. Local authority planning departments need properly resourcing – not only front-line development management handling planning applications, but also planning policy teams producing strategic plans that are workable, realistic and achievable. Investment in more personnel is also a critical part in this complex jigsaw – even more if there are many (smaller) sites to consider.
To answer the question are SME builders the answer to our housing crisis? We, at Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd, agree with Brian Berry and the FMB – release more appropriate sized plots of land and more people will achieve their dream of having their own property.