Boris Johnson’s government has a huge opportunity to re-set the housing debate - and keep its promise to both ‘build back better’ and plan for them more quickly - by delivering the changes needed to support the construction of more than 300,000 new homes each year, LPDF chairman Paul Brocklehurst told members at our online annual conference.
The government should turbo-charge incentives for local authorities, simplify Local Plans, clarify housing targets, conduct a national audit of Green Belt land, and support house builders in creating 250,000 new jobs.
Paul said: “This Government has a huge opportunity. It can re-set the housing delivery debate. Now. Quickly. In so doing it can fulfill its promise to ‘build back better’ and seize an unlikely opportunity out of this global pandemic of 2020.
“The government can be assured that, should the changes we have outlined today be enacted, that we as a sector stand ready to commit significant capital to help bring forward the sites to deliver the new homes that this country so desperately needs.”
He added: “I wish to re-emphasise our commitment as a sector to the speedy delivery of land, to be sold to the widest possible range of house builders and housing associations, enabling the delivery of market homes, affordable housing and community benefits through a streamlined plan-led system.
“Yet here is the rub. At this time of apparent unanimity around the national need to build more houses, the desire for ‘big ideas’ in respect of planning may stymie our ability to deliver those homes when our economy and the younger generation excluded from the property ladder expect and deserve more.”
Under cover of the Planning White Paper Consultation, partly as a result of uncertainty, a growing list of local authorities are abandoning work on their emerging Local Plans or integral parts of a plan already adopted. In addition, others are speeding up work on emerging plans to avoid the possibility that higher housing need numbers may emerge in the shorter term, said Paul.
Both responses show that the unanimity on the national need is only skin deep and yet just this week the Local Government Association has highlighted that housing waiting lists may nearly double to two million by the end of 2021.
“In July 2018, the HBF estimated that boosting the annual supply of homes by around 80,000 would create in excess of a quarter of a million new jobs. Arcadis this week re-affirmed the positive benefits that the construction sector can play in addressing the looming levels of unemployment.
“The housebuilding industry, perhaps uniquely, could play an immediate role in providing jobs to those people who face unemployment as a consequence of the sectoral shifts created by the pandemic.”
Paul added: “Yes, the development industry will play its part in contributing, as it does now, but the New Homes Bonus alone is not a sufficient incentive. More investment will also aid the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, which if spent wisely will show communities the benefits that embracing new development can bring to everyone.”
Alongside these actions there needs to be a ‘turbo-charging’ of the incentives given to local authorities who dodeliver, to correct the decades long under investment in the social and economic physical infrastructure of many local communities.
“Finally, Government needs to increase the funding of local authorities so that the appropriate investment can be made in planning .We need to improve both the human resource and use of technology within the planning process. As a society our perspective on planning needs to change. We need to take a more positive view of the role of planning in improving the functioning and wellbeing of our communities and helping each and every one us to live our lives.”
The LPDF requests that the Government makes the following changes to the existing Framework and Guidance.
- Publish a revised ‘standard method’, taking account of the broadly supportive comments of the industry and the comments from some politicians to ‘level up’ the proposed formula to provide for more new homes in the Midlands and the North at the expense of a reduction in London. Following this, launch a consultation on a clear methodology showing how to make housing need numbers ‘binding’. This could be by way of PINS chaired housing conferences at a wider housing market level, with LPAs and all stakeholders present, following which the Inspectors recommendations are provided to the Secretary of State for final approval;
- That all strategic policies within Local Plans should become out of date unless the Plan has been independently reviewed by the 5thanniversary of its original adoption;
- Empower Local Plan Inspectors such that once a Plan has been submitted to PINS for review they have the ultimate ability to make a Plan sound whilst removing the ability of local authorities to withdraw;
- there should be a national audit of the Green Belt to review its purpose and extent. This should not be controversial,. An Institute of Economic Affairs report of July 2019 co-authored by Jacob Rees-Mogg effectively suggested just that, rightly proposing that a gradualist approach to its release was adopted to show communities that when done properly it will be beneficial to all;
- To consult on a clear Written Ministerial Statement highlighting the significant weight that should be given in decision taking to the economic benefits of development. The Government should also correct the deficiencies in the interpretation of para 11d of the NPPF relating to the so-called ‘tilted balance’ and ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.
- The Government should take forward their proposals immediately for the streamlining of the Local Plan system to create a faster-tracked planning process – which allows continued and open public engagement.