A “bumper backlog” of almost 30,000 new homes is in the pipeline in the West, town hall chiefs have revealed.
They say the figure means the Government does not need to concrete over the countryside, or force through a planning free-for-all.
The Western Daily Press reported earlier this month how Ministers are to change the rules on the Green Belt to allow homes to be built, to try to stimulate the economy.
But the Local Government Association, representing councils, which could be stripped of their powers to decide planning applications, says the drastic moves are not necessary. They have revealed nearly 400,000 homes across England and Wales have got planning permission, but are yet to be completed.
More than 140,000 have not even been started.
They include nearly 11,000 properties across the West where work has not begun, with more than 1,800 in Wiltshire, 1,500 in Bristol and 700 in Gloucester.
Meanwhile more than 18,000 houses have yet to be completed across the West.
The (LGA) believes the “bumper backlog” should “lay to rest the myth” that a cumbersome, outdated planning system must be ripped up. Its Conservative chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, said: “These figures conclusively prove that local authorities are overwhelmingly saying ‘yes’ to new development.
“Even if planning departments did not receive another new home application for the next three years, there are sufficient approved developments ready to go to last until 2016, at the current rate of construction.”
Sir Merrick urged Ministers to relax the strict restrictions on council borrowing, to pay for new homes and to bring unusable properties back into use. He said councils are more positive towards development than ever, with the percentage of applications approved hitting a ten-year high.
And the time taken by developers to complete work on site has increased by several months, with the longest taking almost nine years from getting permission to building the homes.
David Cameron last week unveiled a planning shake-up that included allowing single-storey extensions to be built without planning permission.
It relaxed the requirement on developers to include a proportion of affordable homes in their schemes, and will remove planning powers from local councils that Ministers believe are guilty of poor-quality, or slow, decision-making.
And proposals are expected on developments on the Green Belt, including 106,000 hectares in the West, such as between Bristol and Bath, Cheltenham and Gloucester, and in Dorset.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England says there is enough previously developed or brownfield land in England to build 1.5 million new homes. The CPRE says threats to the West’s precious Green Belt range include plans for thousands of new homes, park-and-ride schemes, link roads and a line of 50 metre high pylons.