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Warning skills and raw material shortages are hindering house building in the region

PUBLISHED: 19:00 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:00 07 February 2017

The government published its housing white paper today Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The government published its housing white paper today Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Archant

The boss of one of the region’s key house-builders has said shortages of skills and raw materials are among many factors hindering house building.

He spoke out as the government published its blueprint to tackle Britain’s “broken” housing market with measures including more use of compulsory purchase powers on stalled sites, and a cut to the time-limit for developers to start building after being given planning permission.

While the rate of house building in Norwich has grown, Norwich City Council Sustainable Development Panel minutes warn the current figures for housebuilding fall short of its five year target.

Tony Abel, chairman of Watton-based Abel Homes, said there were a number of factors hindering house building, including a continued nervousness about lending to the sector.

He also highlighted other obstacles such as utility and planning delays and the need for infrastructure - with lack of amenities often cited by critics of planning schemes. He also said the country needed “more artisans” and warned of raw material delays caused by the closure of suppliers during the recession. John Fuller, the leader of South Norfolk council, said the house building model was shifting to more smaller developments around market towns and in villages. “We [councils] have given more and more planning, but with this white paper the government is giving us the tools to turn those permissions into homes. Whether to buy or to rent.” Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters said the government needed to recognise the importance of local authorities and their ability to solve housing shortages. He said the roots of the current crisis lay in the fact that council and affordable homes stopped being built 30 years ago. He said councils had a solution if they could borrow against assets and receipts from council houses. But he welcomed the recognition in the white paper that more homes needed to be built for renters, and with more security. But said safeguards should apply to the large numbers living in costly private rented and often sub-standard housing now. David Henry, head of Savills in the East, said the “real challenge is turning these ideas into bricks and mortar”.

Key policies in the housing white paper

Local councils having to provide detailed plans for housing growth in their area every five years.

Housebuilding timescales will be shortened, requiring developers to start building within two years instead of three, when planning permission is granted.

More action has also been promised to help small independent builders enter the market through the £3 billion Home Building Fund.

The government will work with the British Property Federation and the National Housing Federation to ensure that “family friendly” tenancies of three or more years are available for renters wanting longer-term tenancies.

Councils will also be expected to use land more efficiently, by building homes at higher density where there is a shortage of land and good transport links.

A ban on large developers imposing “rip-off” fees on freehold property owners will also be considered.

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