The Competition and Markets Authority is seeking feedback on land banks and planning rules as part of its probe into the housbeuilding market

The 11 largest housebuilders own or control an estimated 1.17 million land plots across more than 5,800 sites in Britain, a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) working paper has found.

The number of land in long-term land banks is equivalent to around 658,000 plots, while the short-term land bank is smaller, at around 522,000 plots.

The CMA is now seeking feedback on two working papers it has published, one on land banks and another on planning, as part of its efforts to understand how land banks and planning rules may be delaying housebuilding. The competition regulator is considering whether local competition is being negatively impacted in the small number of areas where large amounts of developable land are controlled by a small number of housebuilders.



The CMA is inviting feedback on land banking and planning rules, as part of its probe into the housebuilding market

CMA analysis of land bank data found 115 local authority areas where there were three or fewer large housebuilders with short-term and/or long-term land banks.

Short-term land has some form of planning permission, while long-term land does not yet have planning permission.

In addition, CMA is exploring options that the government could use to reform planning systems, such as a zoning or rules-based development system to improve competition between housebuilders and increase housing delivery.

The CMA’s planning working paper notes that the housebuilding market in Britain has consistently failed to give sufficient planning approvals to deliver sufficient housing.

The paper notes the trade-offs between environmental, societal and aesthetic considerations and the availability of green space. The CMA says it is not “proposing to make specific recommendations on how these trade-offs ought to be determined”.

However, it looks at three key factors that limit the planning system and may have a disproportionate impact on small and medium enterprise housebuilders. These include lack of predictability, the cost, length and complexity of the planning process, and insufficient clarity of incentives.

Earlier this month, the CMA released a working paper on estate management. The paper focuses on whether estate management charges are transparent and how residents on new housing estates with amenities that have not been adopted by the council have to pay for the maintenance of parks, roads, and street lighting.

Dan Turnbull, director of markets at the CMA said: “The market study is looking at all the options available which could increase the numbers of homes being built for the people who need them – this includes probing the issues around land banks and planning rules further.

See also >> Competition regulator to probe deeper into landbanking by housebuilders

See also >> More costly, slow and risky planning system is a barrier for SME housebuilders says report

“We now want to get feedback on these working papers from the key people in the industry – be that council planning departments, builders or landowners – before we publish our findings early next year.”

Feedback on the CMA’s land bank and planning working papers can be submitted on the case page. Submissions close on 6 December 2023.

Comments on the CMA’s estate management working paper can be submitted until 24 November 2023. 

The CMA will publish a final report on estate management, land banks and planning by 27 February 2024.