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Agency chief urges planning help for Build To Rent schemes

The Build To Rent movement, whereby financial and other institutions fund the construction of purpose-built rental accommodation and go on to run it themselves, has received the backing of online letting agency easyProperty.

Although forecasts say more than 150,000 Build To Rent homes could be constructed in the UK over the next five years, up to the end of 2014 only 715 had been completed. 

Now easyProperty’s chief executive, Rob Ellice, says the government should shake up the planning process by prioritising BTR developments. 

“The bigger the Build To Rent scheme, the longer it’s taking to get through planning, and the more it’s costing – in some cases planning applications can add £1m on to costs” he says. 

“I can list numerous funds that would write very big cheques tomorrow if they could get their hands on suitable parcels of land. I know one fund that is trying to find sites to develop for approx 2,500 units but so far they’ve not succeeded. This is obviously a frustration as there is no shortage of urban brownfield sites in metropolitan areas, but the sites can’t get planning” he claims. 

One solution advocated by Ellice is to ease restrictions for smaller developments. 

“Let’s encourage the entrepreneurs. I’m talking  about smaller storage yards and small pieces of land in urban areas. If we could ease the planning restrictions here we could see a lot of smaller units adding up to something substantial” he says. 

The role of letting agents under Built To Rent is uncertain - some institutions are considering asking professional agencies, especially those operating across regions and the entire UK, to handle management of BTR blocks.

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