Further cuts to local planning departments could leave them incapable of addressing the housing crisis, cautioned the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) ahead of the Spending Review.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Without adequately resourced local planning departments, it will be impossible to tackle the housing crisis. House builders are already reporting that shortages of skilled planning officers are impacting on the speed and efficiency of the planning process at every stage. The effect of this can be particularly pronounced for SME developers – the smaller sites they specialise in, though cumulatively vital, are individually less important and often more resource intensive. There is much to welcome in the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. However, any gains from streamlining the planning system will be in vain if planning departments are starved of resources.”

Mr Berry concluded: “It has been suggested that the government will allow a rise in planning application fees in the forthcoming Spending Review. We would welcome this only on the basis that higher fees resulted in an improved service and more new homes. It would be unacceptable if an increase in charges to developers simply acted as a prop for further cuts to local authorities. It would also be unacceptable if developers were asked to pay more without seeing any improvement in an all-too-often poor quality service. Any suggestion of locally-set fees will be met with considerable distrust by small house builders unless very high standards of transparency and accountability can be demonstrated. The housing crisis is one of the greatest political challenges we currently face and it’s therefore crucial that the Chancellor gets this right in the Spending Review.”