The HBF said that a key factor behind the fall in permissions was the government’s announced, but unfinalised, sweeping reforms of the planning system.
Its research showed that planning permissions across Britain fell for the third consecutive quarter in Q4 2010 to 33,000, down 9% on the previous quarter and 22% down year-on-year.
The HBF warned that the full effect of the collapse in permissions would not be felt for some time, given that it typically takes three years for homes to be built following planning permission.
The HBF said social housing planning permissions fell particularly sharply in Q4 to just 5,500 after reaching 13,700 in Q1 2010.
Nevertheless, permissions remained above the low recorded in Q2 2009 of just 25,200, with permissions across 2010 as a whole 4% up on 2009.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: “These figures are extremely concerning. A reduction in permissions granted now will see fewer homes built in future years, exacerbating the already acute housing shortage we are currently experiencing.”
HBF figures last week revealed that the number of new homes completed last year was down 13% on 2009 to 102,570, the lowest level recorded since 1923.
Baseley said the government urgently needed to clarify how the proposed new localism-based planning system will deliver the level of housing needed and end the vacuum left by scrapping the old planning system without a replacement.
He said: “Only by ending the ongoing hiatus caused by the scrapping of the old system without a ready replacement can developers and local authorities plan ahead confidently and effectively for new housing.
“It is also crucial that councils recognise the housing shortage and accept their new responsibility for housing supply. This will require understanding the new system, taking full account of the government’s incentives and allowing developers to build the homes local residents and the country desperately need.”