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Adam Smith Inst - Britain must build up, out and all about

In a new paper for the Adam Smith Institute, Senior Fellow Nigel Hawkins sets out eight ways that Britain could increase the level of housebuilding at a national and local level. 

  1. Major planning reform
  2. Modest Green Belt encroachment
  3. Easing constraints for medium-sized/small house-builders 
  4. Dismantling some rental restrictions covering Housing Associations
  5. Promoting innovation within the house-building sector  
  6. Establishing some Infrastructure Developments Zones (IDZs) which could offer tax incentives and relaxed planning laws 
  7. Developing surplus public land 
  8. Kickstarting the New Garden Towns proposals

UK housebuilding has finally recovered to pre-recession levels but UK population continues to increase but remains well below the more than 357,000 homes built annual just fifty years ago. 
The overly political housing permission system has left an ever increasing UK population with fewer homes per person, and with even fewer homes per person where people want to live such as inner city London, Oxford and York. 

Complex, drawn out, and politicised planning decisions have also curtailed competition in the number and size of housebuilders — with only large housebuilders have been able to survive. In 1988 small builders accounted for 40% of new-build homes, but this figures is just 12% today. 

If the government wants to bring competition back into the housing sector, the report suggests Local Authorities should be encouraged to grant planning permission to land they own and sell this onto to private sector housebuilders, while retaining the upkeep in the value of land to provide new infrastructure to new and existing residents.

The Adam Smith Institute report also reiterates the Think Tank's critical assessment of the Green Belt. Covering 1,639,090 (13% of England's land area), the Green Belt more than the entire developed land area in the country (at just 9%). 

The free market think tank says that tighter eligibility is needed on what is classed as agricultural land, to reduce the amount of monocultural farms and air pollution caused by high-pesticide use; as well as opening up development for any brownfield sites currently within the Green Belt including the infamous Tottenham Hale petrol station

Reform could get Britain back to the levels of building seen in the earlier part of the 20th century, allow young Britons the chance to rent or own where they live and work, and tackle a sector that is held back by a lack of competition. 

Matthew Kilcoyne from the Adam Smith Institute said:

“Britain’s planning system was designed for a different age, when we were deserting cities in favour of the suburbs. Just like the rest of the world, this trend has reversed in the UK. But our planning system remains stuck in the mud and blocking development.

“For all too many young people the idea of owning a house where they live and work is just a pipedream. But the blockage in the pipe is just political, it can cleared as soon as the will as found. Solve the housing crisis, and we’ll solve the cost of living, boost productivity and send Britain’s economic growth rate soaring.”

To arrange an interview with a member of the Adam Smith Institute Institute please contact Matt Kilcoyne on 07904099599 or via email (

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