Planning in the Media

The comprehensive spending review inspired gloom, doom, outrage and bewilderment.

The Financial Times, reported that residential developers were "offered little relief" in spite of the worst housing shortage for a generation.

"Cuts to social housing, a lack of clarity on planning and the prospect of soaring unemployment did little to lift the fog of uncertainty hanging over the house building industry." The sector is "bewildered" by plans to radically change the financing of new council houses, with experts warning the measures could devastate social housing, according to The Guardian.

"The builders are understood to be concerned about the review announcement that it will cut the social housing budget by 60 per cent and make up the shortfall by more than doubling to 80 per cent the rents paid by new tenants as a proportion of the private market rate."

Anne Ashworth in The Times warned that rents for new social housing tenants will "be unaffordable for many and thus not guaranteed to be paid".

Communities secretary Eric Pickles may have urged that "the fat be stripped from town halls, so making the new homes bonus a vital source of revenue," she added. "But even a man of his bulk may not quell local opposition to new development."

The Independent's Johann Hari warned that on average only "one new home will be built each week in London and the South East". Instead of building homes, the government is "driving people out of them" by slashing housing benefit.

The Observer reported that London boroughs are block-booking bed and breakfasts for an estimated 200,000 people who will be priced out of the capital by the cuts. Landlords, it warned, will not cut rents to the level of caps in the review.

The scrapping of regional housing targets may lead to a hiatus in building that could cost 300,000 homes within a year, according to The Sunday Times.

"Planning committees have delayed crucial decisions until government plans become clearer - not least its promise to provide lucrative incentives to build." Developers realise that the return of local decision-making will require a long-term shift in thinking, the paper reported, with one unnamed construction group chief describing it as a "wholesale change to the house building game".


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