Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Planning a 'mess', says builder

Redrow chairman Steve Morgan said Britain's planning system was a "bureaucratic mess"

Housebuilder Redrow has criticised Britain's planning system as a "bureaucratic mess" that risks causing a housing supply crunch.

Chairman Steve Morgan revealed the group had 16,600 plots locked in the planning system that could deliver around 120 new developments, but said only a "minority" were expected to progress in the next year due to the complex approval process.

His warning came as the Flintshire-based builder posted a 63% jump in pre-tax profits to £70 million in the year to June 30 after capitalising on a housing market fuelled by state stimulus schemes.

It saw a 15% jump in completed sales to 2,827 and said private average selling prices rose 11% to £227,300 as it sold more large family homes under its Heritage Collection brand.

Redrow announced plans to reinstate shareholder dividend payments following the robust results, proposing a final divi of 1p a share. It last made a payment in March 2008.

Redrow said the Government's Help to Buy initiative made a "significant contribution" to forward sales, up 42% by value over the year, although it has only led to 3% of private completions so far since launch in April.

The group cheered the return of market confidence, with private reservations so far in the current financial year up 54% at 784.

Redrow is aiming for a "substantial" increase in building, with 93 sites up to now in 2013 against 84 in 2012.

But Mr Morgan cautioned over the industry's ability to meet fast-increasing demand in the face of a " bureaucratic, costly and time-consuming" planning system.

"Although we do expect to increase outlets in the current year, the pace of growth is much slower than we would like and the level of planning bureaucracy is an unnecessary barrier to increasing the supply of new homes," he said.

While most of Britain is benefiting from Help to Buy and the Funding for Lending scheme to increase the availability of credit, Redrow confirmed that Wales continues to suffer from a lack of Government-backed initiatives.

It said South Wales was the only one of its nine regional businesses not experiencing notable growth, hampered also by an even more difficult planning environment.

Shares in Redrow rose 3% following the results and dividend cheer.

Mark Hughes, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "The progress that this company has made in recent years is remarkable."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government claimed planning approval rates were running at a 10 year high, with nine out of 10 applications getting the green light.

She said: " Our reforms have condensed the previous 1,300 pages of advice into a clear 50 page guide and turned the 7,000 pages of practice guidance into a single online resource.

"These reforms have been backed by business as the right way to support the construction industry and help build the homes the next generation needs, while conserving our countryside," she added.

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