9,000 extra plots required each year as housebuilders abandon flats in favour of traditional houses

The amount of development land needed to meet government housing targets will rise by two-thirds as developers stop building flats in response to the downturn, according to research seen exclusively by Building.

The research, by housing data company Hometrack, suggests that 21,774 housing plots will be needed to hit the government’s target once the number of flats being built returns to more normal levels. This compares to the 13,000 plots currently delivered by the planning system each year.

The government has so far refused to review its target to build 240,000 homes a year by 2016, compared to the 180,000 built in 2006/7, and expects housebuilders to ratchet up delivery quickly when the downturn ends.

The research says that even to build 180,000 homes, the industry will require 16,300 plots, due to the expected shift away from flats to building traditional houses. It assumes that the proportion of developments which are flats will fall from its current level of 47%, to 25% over the next few years as developers react to the perceived oversupply of flats.

Richard Donnell, research director at Hometrack, said: “This shift will impact on the densities achievable on development land and will have major implications for land values, which appear set for a protracted period of re-pricing. The planning system will need to supply a lot more land in order to maintain levels of development.”

However, despite repeated reviews, the amount of development land being produced by the planning system has not risen in recent years, with rises in housebuilding figures produced by increasing density. The density on new developments has risen to 44 homes per hectare in 2007 from 25 homes per hectare in 2001.