Industry gives new planning measures a cautious welcome

September 18, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Industry gives new planning measures a cautious welcome

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid recently laid bare details of a new approach to planning, first mooted in the government’s housing white paper.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the communities’ secretary explained that the policy would measure each local authority’s housing need. These would consist of basing assessments on local household projection data over a ten-year timeframe, which would then be multiplied in areas where house prices outstrip average incomes.

Housing target increases will be limited at 40% of the number set in a council’s local plan or 40% of projected households, should the local authority not have an adopted local plan.

“It is imperative the local authorities have a plan in place and that the process of planning for housing is as straightforward as possible,” the RTPI said in a statement. “However, considering the acknowledged urgency of the housing crisis, we are disappointed with the considerable time it has taken for the consultation to come forward.

“As the SoS acknowledged in his speech to the Commons, this is also only part of the solution to the housing crisis. More needs to be done to diversify our housing market and incentivise land owners to release land for development in the right places.

“It is well established that frequent tinkering around the edges of the planning system are severely disruptive to the day-to-day tasks of planning and delivery. In this case, we have serious concerns with the delay the implementation of new objectively assessed housing need (OAN) could cause to plan delivery. Our main ask is that transitional arrangements will ensure these changes are as least disruptive as possible.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation added,

“Measuring housing need is an essential component of the government’s housing policy. Developers rarely seek to push water uphill, but they want to work with communities to deliver housing within the framework of a good local plan that is based on accurate estimates of housing need. We also support an increase in planning fees if that means more resource on the ground for local authorities – for some councils, additional headcount and better staff retention will make a huge difference.

“We are particularly pleased to see government’s proposal that housing need itself should be better disaggregated. For example, across the country the housing choices for older people are often woeful ad identifying their specific needs is vital. Similarly, the recognition that build-to-rent should be assessed separately from homes for sale will help boost that growing part of our sector and ensure it can truly support in adding to much-needed housing supply. The measures set out today, when implemented, will help fix our broken housing market.”

In a statement to the House of Commons, the communities’ secretary explained that the policy would measure each local authority’s housing need. Javid argued that – if adopted nationally – this method would result in England building approximately 260,000 new homes a year.

The House Builders Association (HBA) believes that the new measures will make local authorities responsible for cooperating with regional SMEs in the supply chain to deliver the right homes in the right places.

Rico Wojtulewicz, policy advisor for the HBA, said, “The Housing White Paper was a meaningful first step in solving the housing crisis and we are delighted that it remains part of the government’s ambition. Local authorities have failed to enable deliverable supply through their plan-making process. This has not only stifled supply, but the capacity of the local supply chain.”

“To meet the government’s challenge, local authorities will need to concentrate on making sure local plans deliver a meaningful increase in supply. This will require shifting focus from larger slow-to-deliver sites towards smaller and infill sites – which are delivered more quickly, favoured by local communities, and do not exacerbate existing infrastructure.”

Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s Housing spokesman, concluded, “Councils know that the only way to tackle our housing crisis is to build more homes, and the right types of homes needed for our communities. Councils already approve nine in 10 planning permissions, but are often frustrated when approved homes aren’t built quickly enough.

“There could be benefits to having a standard approach to assessing the need for housing, but a formula drawn up in Whitehall can never fully understand the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place. It is crucial that councils and communities can lead new development in their areas.

“Our residents are clear – new homes in their communities have to be affordable, high-quality, and supported by adequate infrastructure and sustainable local services. The only way to do this is to make sure that councils, who are closest to the communities they serve, have the powers and funding they need to deliver homes that are right for their local area.

“This means powers to make sure developers build out approved homes in a timely fashion, adequately funding planning departments so that they can cover the cost of processing applications, and freeing councils to borrow to build quality new homes communities want and need.

“Ultimately we need a renaissance in council house building if we’re to deliver the affordable homes this country needs – national ambitions will not be realised without new freedoms and powers for councils.”

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