Beazer call to scrap planning

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The Independent Online
HOUSE-BUILDERS should be allowed to build where and how much they like without being constrained by planning rules, Dennis Webb, the chief executive of Beazer, the UK's third largest house-builder, said yesterday.

He called for the abolition of the planning system, accusing local authorities of crippling profitability with "unreasonable demands".

Under the present rules, builders must apply to local authorities for permission to develop land. This often leads to long negotiations between the two parties over the environmental and social implications of the development.

In his outspoken attack on local councils, Mr Webb said that the planners' "negative attitude" to development led to long delays in receiving planning permissions. The uncertainty generated by the councils affected building companies' cash-flow and turnover, and made forward planning "a nightmare".

"It does have an impact on the business. You don't get the same level of volume that you would get without the system," he said.

Mr Webb said that Beazer had to wait 25 years to develop a plot of land in Newcastle-upon-Tyne because it was on the edge of "green belt".

He also criticised the principle of "planning gain", whereby builders have to contribute to local facilities such as schools and hospitals in exchange for planning consent. Planners' "unreasonable demands" often forced builders to give up developments.

Mr Webb argued that the scrapping of planning rules would solve most of these problems. He rejected the charge that his proposals amounted to a builders' free-for-all and would lead to a "cementification" of the country.

Mr Webb said that construction companies had a vested interest in creating a pleasant environment for their customers and would be able to regulate themselves.

His comments came after Beazer reported a 27 per cent increase in interim pre-tax profits to pounds 79.2m. Completions rose 8 per cent to 7,776, while selling prices rose 9 per cent to an average pounds 81,000.

Mr Webb warned of a "tougher trading climate" for the second half as demand is reduced by mortgage rate increases and a deteriorating economic background.

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