Planning in the media

The controversy surrounding the government's housing benefit reforms continues to rumble on.

The Guardian warned that large swathes of southern England will become "off limits" to housing benefit recipients, "triggering a huge migration of the poor to the north".

It cited research by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) which suggests that by 2025 rents on most two-bedroom properties in the south will become unaffordable to those claiming local housing allowance. "Within 15 years, much of London's commuter belt will become too expensive for the state to pay for the poor to live in.

"Towns such as Chelmsford, Newbury, Bath and Maidstone would be no-go areas for those on benefits and all of Hertfordshire would be out of bounds. The capital would be unaffordable within a decade." CIH head of policy Sam Lister told the paper that people will be forced to "move from where the jobs are to where there are far fewer".

The north-south divide in the housing market is "widening into a gulf", according to The Times, with the prospects for homeowners and property values diverging ever more sharply. The paper cited research by ratings agency Standard and Poor's, which found that one in ten homeowners in the North West are in negative equity compared with one in 75 in the south.

Reporting on the same research, The Independent warned that the north's "public sector jobs bias" will lead to households suffering higher mortgage arrears and homelessness as unemployment and interest rates rise in coming years.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that plans for a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham are facing fierce protests from middle England. "A growing army of environmentalists, politicians and residents is accusing ministers of sacrificing some of England's most treasured countryside to build an expensive and flawed railway," the paper said.

It claimed the groups are preparing a legal challenge over the route, which goes through the heart of the protected Chiltern Hills. HS2 Action Alliance spokeswoman Hilary Wharf told the paper: "The government said it was green. It isn't. Then it was value for money. It isn't. Now it is talking about transformational effects in terms of the economies of parts of the UK - for which it has given no evidence."

Plans for a green revolution in the property sector are likely to start a legal row that could affect every landlord in the UK, according to The Sunday Times. The government's Green Deal aims to cut £3 billion from the nation's power bills as owners apply for loans to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. But the programme threatens to leave the commercial sector in disarray, the paper warned.

"Landlords and tenants could be forced to renegotiate hundreds of thousands of lease agreements to accommodate the proposals. Each year 40,000 office blocks in the UK are given a green refit. Although the number sounds large, it represents a fraction of the buildings in use, many of which need an overhaul."


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