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Nick Fenton, Chairman of Kent Developers Group

Nick Fenton, Chairman of Kent Developers Group

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‘We want to be building’ – Kent developers respond to Local Government Association criticism

Nick Fenton, Chairman of Kent Developers Group

Nick Fenton, Chairman of Kent Developers Group

Developers want and need to press ahead with building new homes but face legislative and financial obstacles that prevent them from doing so, according to Kent Developers Group.

Nick Fenton, Chairman of the body that represents homebuilders in the county, was reacting to a call from the Local Government Association (LGA) for penalties to be levied against developers who fail to start work on sites that have planning permission.

The LGA has called for developers to be charged Council Tax on homes not built before initial planning approval expires, and claimed 475,000 homes with planning permission had yet to be built across the UK.

“Let’s be clear, developers, small developers in particular, want to be building on sites as soon as possible,” said Nick Fenton.

“But there are many factors that can contrive to cause delays. Meeting pre-start and pre-occupation planning conditions imposed by local authorities and protracted legal negotiations over Section 106 agreements, for example.”

He added that some sites, particularly those owned by smaller developers, could be rendered unviable by such conditions and changes in planning legislation.

Also, many sites have outline permission and agreeing reserved matters on those can take developers close to the expiry deadline.

“Focus also needs to be targeted at establishing the infrastructure and facilities which encourage and increase the demand for the housing being built, and this will increase delivery,” added Nick.

“It is also worth noting that developers build at the rate the houses can be sold. While demand is good, we don’t have hundreds of people coming through our doors every day putting down money to buy homes, so many of the larger schemes are phased over as many as 10 years.”

The LGA also cited a skills gap in the construction industry as a barrier to work starting.

“Here in Kent and Medway we are trying to get ahead of the game in producing skilled construction workers,” said Nick

“Kent Constructing Excellence is doing good work with young people and we have the two University Technical College’s (UTCs) at Chatham and Dartford bringing through talented and trained students, as are our further education colleges.

“There is no gain for developers in leaving land standing empty once planning permission has been granted when, particularly on larger developments, a substantial amount of money has been spent to get to that point.

“Developers need to generate sufficient profit to encourage investment in the first place, and anything which adds further risk to the process, such as the penalties being suggested by the LGA, can only detract from their appetite, especially in areas of lower selling prices.

“There is a real danger that a new regime of penalties could have the opposite effect to that intended by discouraging developers from bringing forward sites, so slowing house building rates.

“The Government has set ambitious but achievable house building targets and we as developers want to work with local authorities to meet those targets.”

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