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Housebuilding activity slows as planning delays stall growth

From churches to factories to barns, the restoration revolution is here to convert them all.

Thirty years ago building a loft extension or a splashing out on a new conservatory helped you scale both the
local social rankings and the property ladder by increasing your house price. However, for today’s ambitious
homeowner, bolting on an extra room isn’t excitement enough. Were on a quest to convert historic buildings
albeit beautiful old churches, red brick post offices or cattle sheds into eclectic homes.

In fact, applications for barn conversions have increased by 20 per cent over the last 12 months, according to
Jason Orme, editor of Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. Since a loosening of permitted development rights
last year, formal planning approval for this type of conversion is no longer needed, and its really energised the
sector, he says.

Although barn conversions are the most popular kind of renovation project, they also tend to be the most costly
as many are ramshackled. To play it safe, stick to transforming a chapel, which has stood the test of time.
Take, for example, Kenmont Gardens, a spectacular former church in north-west London, half way between
Willesden Junction and Kensal Green, and newly on the market for 9.99?million through Foxtons. This
four-bedroom house has stained-glass windows picturing choirs of saints and angels, heavenly high ceilings, and
a gym.

A property of this scale its 6,167 sq ft and immaculately dressed has been converted and restored by a
developer. The underfloor heating, waterfall on the patio and concrete kitchen work surfaces are a give away. But
how easy is it for the amateur to complete a complex conversion project , equipped with only enthusiasm and a
bit of cash?

London builder Billy Heyman starts by making the shell watertight, insulated and therefore liveable. In the 17th,
UK housebuilding rose at its slowest rate for three years in March as a result of planning delays and fears over
Brexit. Growth in the private housing sector slowed down considerably during the first quarter of 2016 despite the
government promising to deliver 400,000 new homes by the next general election.

According to the latest construction figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, only 36% of those working in the sector reported a rise in growth rather than a fall in the first quarter of 2016. In the first quarter of 2015 this figure was closer to 50%.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “Our survey tells us that planning delays are one of
the biggest barriers to growth in the construction sector. We have recommended that councils work together to
create a team of emergency planners who can parachute into boroughs that are experiencing significant delays,
therefore reducing a major growth barrier.

“That said, we cannot discount the climate of uncertainty caused by the forthcoming EU referendum. We know that a range of sectors have been affected by these issues as investors
look to delay any decisions until a final outcome has been determined, and construction is no exception.

“As part of a drive to help first-time buyers on to the property ladder, the government has said it will invest 7 billion to build 400,000 homes by 2020.
In the Autumn Statement last year, Chancellor George Osborne pledged to build 200,000 starter homes with 20% discounts for under-40s, 135,000 shared ownership homes, 10,000 rent-to-buy
homes and 8,000 specialist properties for the elderly and disabled.”One might well ask why growth in private
housing workloads is softening at a time when policy is firmly focussed on the creation of new starter homes. We
have long held the view that starter homes cannot be the only solution. There is an issue around the availability
of land on which new houses can be built, and we would like to see more being done to free up private brownfield
sites,” said Rubinsohn.

Charles Holland, head of residential development and investment at Marsh & Parsons,
said: “Within London, despite remaining well above the long-term average, this quarter has seen the construction
of new homes fall by around 40%. According to the GLA, the capital needs to deliver 42,000 homes over the next
10 years to keep pace with demand in the market and at this pace of construction growth, we will struggle to
meet this target.

“There’s been much talk about loosening planning permission and freeing up government land as
a way of taking residential construction in the capital up to the next level. Both are valid points but addressing the
current skills shortage in the construction industry is the real key to unlocking a house building boom.”

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