Scale & Role Of Land Promoters

This report – prepared by Lichfields and commissioned by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (of which Catesby Estates plc are founding members) – explores the role of specialist land promoters and developers in housing delivery in England.

The analysis is framed by the Government’s ambition for 300,000 homes per annum by the mid-2020s and to better understand – via the Letwin Review – the relationship between planning permissions and housing output.

The current debate would benefit from a greater awareness of the roles played by different types of organisation in developing land, and of the work, costs and risks involved.

Our research reviews data on planning permission data and surveyed a number of specialist land promotion companies. It reveals the following key findings:

  • Land promoters are responsible for around 50% of all work on pre-application sites – exploring the potential of land with local planning authorities


  • Outside London, there are some 541,000 dwellings with outline planning permission on sites of over 100 units. This may seem a large number, but in the context that most credible estimates put the number of permissioned units needed for 300,000 homes per annum at around 1m, it shows there is some way still to go. The number of permissions of this scale granted has increased markedly since 2015, but has been just under 120,000 per annum in 2016 and 2017


  • Of the total stock of permissions, over half are on sites of over 1,000 units which will inevitably be developed over a number of years, emphasising why great care should be taken in making simple comparisons between the number of units granted permission in a year with the number of completions or starts


  • Specialist land promotion companies and developers are responsible for securing outline planning permission for 41% of these homes, compared to 32% for volume housebuilders, of which the majority are the largest housebuilders, with smaller and regional housebuilders being less likely and able to expose themselves to the planning and financial risks of land promotion


  • Around 100,000 homes (just under 20%) are held in outline permissions secured by the public sector and civic bodies. These organisations face the same hurdles to converting these permissions to starts on site as housebuilders and specialist land promoters


  • Specialist land promoters and developers are more likely than other organisations to secure planning permission at appeal, although the overall numbers are very small (just 6% of units with permission)


  • Sites for which they secure outline planning permission are sold to a mixture of the very largest, mid-scale and small-scale housebuilders


  • Smaller housebuilders are more likely to buy smaller sites


  • The housebuilding sector is not homogenous meaning that one should be cautious about making generalisations, but the experience of the LPDF is that larger housebuilders tend to buy larger sites but have more internal procedures to adhere to, whereas SME housebuilders can be more risk averse even for sites with an outline planning permission, making offers for land conditional on securing a detailed reserved matters approval.

Download the full report here