In 2012 there were just over 15,000 permissions for houses to be built in Cornwall but not yet started. Let’s put that into perspective. It’s equivalent to 1.7 more Truros. Two years later and the number of houses with permission but not yet started had climbed to over 20,000. Which equates to another 2.2 Truros.
Yet the strange thing is that, despite all the permissions being doled out right, left and centre, the number of houses actually being built is falling. Last year saw the lowest recorded total since the 1990s. Developers are building at a rate of 40,800 (or 4.6 Truros) every 20 years rather than the 47,500 (or 5.3 Truros) Cornwall Council assures us are ‘needed’.
This is even stranger when we consider the Government’s proud boasts about its construction-led economic growth. So what’s going on? Are developers banking permissions waiting for prices to rise? Are they deliberately holding back supply to retain the narrative of a housing crisis that can only be solved by building ‘more’ rather than better, therefore making it easier to obtain planning permission? Or are they slowing down delivery to maintain house prices and not over-supply the market? Which would imply that a rate of 47,500 houses in 20 years is an over-supply.
At the same time, the proportion of so-called ‘affordable’ houses built fell from 42% in 2010/11 to 29% last year, in spite of looser definitions that effectively mean any house with a rent or price lower than the market rent or price can be defined as ‘affordable’.
Is it not time to call the developers’ bluff? Or are they confident they can go on getting away with this as they have the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government and Cornwall Council’s planners securely in their pockets?