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11,000 homes waiting for the builders to get started
Pressure is mounting on developers to make a start on mothballed housing schemes as it emerged that thousands of homes across the district have been given the green light by planners but have yet to be built.
Despite a chronic housing shortage, there are currently more than 11,000 homes in the Bradford district which have been granted planning permission but have not been constructed.
Now there are calls for developers who fail to make a start on approved housing schemes to be fined or even stripped of planning permission to deter so-called ‘land banking.’ Fewer than 700 homes were completed by developers in 2010-11, less than a third of the annual target of 2,430, according to figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus.
In comparison, 2,156 homes were built in 2007-08, before the recession hit.
Now a Council boss has said she would back a scheme which imposed fines on developers who were sitting on plots of land and waiting for the market to pick up.
There is currently planning permission for 11,188 homes across the Bradford district – 9,006 on brownfield land and 2,182 on greenfield land.
But at the rate houses are currently being constructed, it would take more than 16 years to get them all finished.
The figures show the widening gap between the number of homes given the green light by Bradford Council’s planners and those that are actually being constructed.
Coun Val Slater, executive member for homes and planning at Bradford Council, said it showed how the economic downturn had affected the construction industry.
She said: “I think it demonstrates how the Government has got it wrong by saying it’s the planning system that’s getting in the way of development. That clearly isn’t the case.
“It’s because the banks are not lending money to the developers and the Government is not making sufficient funds available for them to actually do the building.
“Even if they did build, people are finding it very difficult to get mortgages. Between these two elements, I think that’s why very little progress is being made at the moment.”
Coun Slater said another problem was ‘land banking’, which is when landowners put potential developments on ice, waiting for the market to pick up before either building on the land or selling it on for profit.
She said: “I think we do have some examples of that in Bradford.
“The problem is there’s nothing we can do. If somebody banks some land, there’s nothing we can do to make them build.”
Coun Slater said one option was to consider incentives for developers who completed their plans, alongside fines for those who failed to build homes in a set time – a move which she said would get her backing.
Coun John Pennington, Conservative spokesman for planning, said there were a number of sites across Bradford where planning permission had been in place for a while but nothing had been built.
He said: “The fact is, nobody’s got any money to spend.”
The mothballed Soho Square development, off Allerton Lane, was a particular eyesore, he said.
A spokesman for the developer, McDermott Homes, said they were not planning to do anything with the land in the near future, and declined to comment further.
Other prominent mothballed sites include Citygate, at the bottom of Manchester Road, and the Beehive apartment scheme, off Thornton Road.
As previously reported in the Telegraph & Argus, there are currently almost 21,000 households on housing waiting lists in the Bradford district.
The National Housing Federation, which represents social housing providers, is campaigning for more affordable homes to be built on brownfield land to ease the crisis.
The Federation’s Yorkshire manager, Rob Warm, said: “I do think there are things that can be done to encourage developers to build the developments they’ve got.”
Mr Warm said while he accepted developers needed to turn a profit, land banking was depriving people of much-needed homes.
Mr Warm said more needed to be done to provide incentives for developers to complete their sites, and suggested planning permission should be taken away from those who fail to make a start. He said: “You can’t force private developers to build, but for each unbuilt home, that’s another house that is not there for people in the city to live in.”
Elizabeth Hellmich, a committee member of Heaton Township Association, has long campaigned for development to be concentrated on brownfield, rather than greenfield sites.
She said she was shocked by the number of homes on brownfield land that were still waiting to be built, but this supported her view that developers were prioritising greenfield developments as they were cheaper.
And she agreed land banking was a problem. She said: “The supermarkets do that. They buy up spaces around their supermarkets so other supermarkets can’t buy them.”