PUBLIC SECT0R: Builders trade body set to lobby DTLR

The House Builders Federation (HBF), the trade body representing the house-building industry, is to launch a lobbying push as the Government begins the most radical overhaul of planning laws in 50 years.

A green paper released by planning minister Lord Falconer says the present system is too slow and complicated and needs to be made more user-friendly.

Currently just 63 per cent of applications are dealt with within two months, 17 per cent short of the Government's target.

The HBF agrees that the system is in need of reform and argues that not enough details have been released of the Government's intentions in overhauling the system.

There are also concerns that taxes on house-building firms could be increased.

To help its lobbying efforts, including targeting the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, which handles planning issues, the HBF has hired Chelgate as its first retained agency.

Chelgate account directors Mark Glover and Mike Hardware will handle the account to assist on public affairs and issues management.

HBF head of media relations Pierre Williams, who reports directly to CEO Robert Ashmead, confirmed one of Chelgate's priorities will be to advise on planning reform.

He said: 'We agree with reform but are concerned because not a lot of details are available. There is a massive demand for new homes but house-building is at the lowest point in 70 years. The planning system is restricting us - the Government must get this reform right.'

Meanwhile the HBF has restructured its external affairs division, which co-ordinates lobbying efforts - and is now on the hunt for its first director of external affairs.

Lobbying was previously overseen by head of external affairs Julian Smith, who left late last year.

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