With the UK population set to hit more than 67 million by 2020, the Government has pressed the green light on a new estate age.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid have “doubled up” to launch a new Productivity Plan, including a target of building 200,000 so-called Starter Homes (where young first-time buyers get a 20 per cent discount) by 2020.
But the plan also includes a vow to unlock what the Government calls “an excessively strict planning system” by giving developers automatic planning permission to build on derelict and disused industrial and commercial sites, known as brownfield land.
Mr Javid said: “Under-supply of housing pushes up house prices in many areas and means millions of people can’t live and work where they want to, or even own their own home.
“We are absolutely determined to see more planning permissions granted and more houses built.”
In south east Lincolnshire alone, it is estimated that nearly 14,000 homes may need to be built by 2031, including 9,400 in South Holland and more than 4,500 in Boston Borough.
Further west, South Kesteven’s most recent development plan of 2010 estimates that more than 2,500 new homes are needed in Bourne and the Deepings alone by 2026, with about another 1,000 in Stamford.
Mike Quinton, chief executive of the National House-Building Council, said: “Our body registered 145,174 new homes for development in 2014 across the UK, up 9 per cent on 2013.
“But with research showing that 245,000 homes are needed every year to meet demand, there is still some way to go.
“Small housebuilders and developers have contributed to UK housing output throughout history.
“However, in recent years the number of smaller builders have not returned to the market at the same rate following other recoveries and research by ourselves last year found that access to finance is one of the biggest barriers preventing smaller housebuilders from entering the market.”
But the lack of capital for housebuilding may not be the biggest obstacle to the Government’s Productivity Plan if an event hosted by Bourne-based developer Larkfleet Group is anything to go by.
Former Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Secretary and now House of Lords member Matthew Taylor was the guest of Larkfleet at an event in Peterborough yesterday evening when the spotlight was thrown on the country’s housing shortage.
Lord Taylor said: “We face a housing crisis today, just as we did after the Second World War.
“Last year, more babies were born than in any year since 1971 while the number of over 65s will double by 2050 and the number of over 85s will double by 2030.
“We need to build 240,000 homes a year just to stand still, but are currently building less than half that.”
Larkfleet’s Karl Hick, named overall East Midlands Director of the Year 2015 by the Institute of Directors for the region, added: “Any moves by the Government to make planning easier are to be welcomed.
“However, there is an inherent contradiction between its desire to see more housing built and the opposition of most local communities to new housing in their neighbourhoods.
“The current planning system allows local communities to effectively block development through what are known as Neighbourhood Plans and this has to change. “But only the government can change it, so it is disappointing that the opportunity to tackle this problem wasn’t taken.”
On the other side of the argument are parish councils under pressure from the people who elected them and with the power to unseat them every four years.
A spokesman for Long Sutton Parish Council said: “The Government’s new proposals could work in urban areas to utilise derelict sites and regenerate parts of towns and cities to provide much-needed housing.
“However, in rural areas such as South Holland consultation should still take place and local communities should be listened to.
“New buildings should be in keeping with the local area and, in addition, small rural towns should not be burdened with huge developments when there is little local employment and facilities for their residents.”