Leading Essex and Hertfordshire estate agents Mullucks Wells says claims that housebuilders are ‘landbanking’ - deliberately sitting on plots of land without building on them - are in fact down to the result of an overly long and complicated planning process.

The company’s comments follow newspaper reports that UK developers currently possess enough land to create more than 600,000 new homes in Britain – a figure which is four times the total number of houses built in the country last year.

Mullucks Wells Land & New Homes Director Daniel Galati said: “When you read figures like these, it’s all too easy to blame the developers. But the truth is, they are as keen to get building as anyone else. We are currently in the throes of a building boom following the worst recession in a generation. The demand is there, house prices are going up and interest rates are at an all time low. These ideal conditions aren’t going to last forever - so developers want to construct new homes as quickly as possible.

“However, the problem lies in the sheer length and complexity of the planning process. Council planning departments are understaffed and overstretched and the process is slow and laborious. In many areas, a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ prevents anything being built at all. Plus there’s massive disharmony in the ranks of planning departments – some of which have been cut by more than 50% over the last five years.” 

Daniel Galati suggests that any plots which are being sat on are due to protracted negotiations with owners. The cost of building materials has also increased considerably, and there is a current shortage of labour. 

He added: “Despite these difficulties, housebuilding has increased output at the steepest rate for decades, to a point where it is now up 25% year on year. The challenge is often around getting conditions cleared for development, particularly on major regeneration sites, and the capacity within local planning authorities to work alongside developers. But for most housebuilders, the majority of sites with implementable planning consent are already in production.”