MD of Forman & Field Lance Forman sorts out the housing crisis

Lance Forman who manages the 107 year-old family firm

Lance Forman who manages the 107 year-old family firm - Credit: Carmen Valino - on shift

One of the biggest crises in Britain today is the housing crisis. It is not a new crisis but has been exacerbated by recent immigration putting ever more pressure on available accommodation. Pressures are on private housing and social housing. There’s simply not enough to go round and as a result of the shortage property prices are too high.

One of the biggest economic opportunities in Britain today is therefore clear. It’s to build more housing. Not only would this provide much needed accommodation, resulting in house prices becoming more affordable, it would also provide a huge fillip to the economy. Construction and manufacturing would benefit, there would be more work for architects, designers, builders, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom manufacturers, and this would all trickle down to you and me. People would live healthier lives in new, better built and better insulated homes which would be more energy efficient and less costly to maintain.

Planning policy over the years has forced developers to pay a tax on planning and also to incorporate social housing into every private housing scheme. The irony is, that whilst these measures are a disincentive to develop keeping house prices high, the more housing developers can be encouraged to build the quicker house prices would fall making properties more affordable for all. It a simple case of supply and demand. The economics at the moment don’t work.

So if this is all so obvious, why doesn’t it happen? According to our illustrious Mayor, Mr Johnson, we have plenty of brownfield sites which could accommodate a huge house building programme in London. The lack of house-building cannot be blamed on the recent financial crisis, as the failure to build was as bad in the boom years. The problem is simple; it’s planning. Whilst we complain about unelected officials in Brussels creating too many regulations which make life ever more burdensome, the fact is we have the very same problem on our doorstep with our planning officials. These unelected bureaucrats sitting in our council offices, have far too much power. They wield and sometimes abuse their power for their own designs. Delay and prevarication is in their interests, it keeps them employed longer. They often blight swathes of potentially productive property and issue compulsory purchase orders, a form of legalised robbery. No one ever seems to question it; it’s something we just accept, hence the problem we now face.

It is time to turn the spotlight away from the bankers and politicians, blaming them for all our ills. Now we should start to focus on the faceless planners, whom we know so little about. We should examine their motivations and interpretations in more detail and the policies of stagnation they have wittingly or unwittingly created and in doing so, we could solve one of the most urgent crises facing Britain today.