Slow housing developers should face penalties, says LGA
Developers that fail to swiftly build properties when planning permission is in place should face stiff penalties, the Local Government Association says.
Council tax should be paid on homes not built before initial planning approval expires, said the body representing English and Welsh councils.
It said 475,000 homes with planning permission were not completed in 2014-15, but councils were not to blame.
The government said building had started on more than half of these.
The LGA said that in 2012-13, the total of "unimplemented planning permissions" was 381,390, but in 2013-14 it was 443,265, rising to 475,647 homes in 2014-15.
Peter Box, the LGA's housing spokesman, said the figures proved the planning system was "not a barrier" to house building.
"To tackle the new homes backlog and to get Britain building again, councils must have the power to invest in building new homes and to force developers to build homes more quickly," he said.
"Councils must be given a leading role to tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building."
But John Stewart, from the Home Builders Federation disagreed.
He said "speeding up the rate at which permissions are granted" was one of the keys to "significant, sustainable" increases in house-building.
"Too many sites are stuck in the planning system, with an estimated 150,000 plots awaiting full sign-off by local authorities," he said.
He dismissed claims that developers were guilty of "land banking" - or holding land in order for its value to increase.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said there had been "a 25% increase in the number of new homes delivered over the past year alone", saying the government had "got Britain building again".
"Alongside this we're working closely with developers to ensure [Britain] has the skills it needs - and saw 18,000 building apprenticeships started in 2014," he said.
"We're also directly commissioning thousands of new affordable homes and recently doubled the housing budget."