Housing bill: reaction from the planning sector

The government yesterday announced a fresh wave of changes to the planning system through the Housing and Planning Bill. Planning has collated reactions from across the sector.

RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott
RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott

Trudi Elliott, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said: "The RTPI welcomes the priority being given to housing by the government, given the backlog of need built up over 30 years. Planning is part of the solution and permissions for homes rose to 261,000 in the last year. The number of homes built or started in contrast remained stubbornly low at 124,250 completions. So the key priority now must be to get more homes actually built and a focus on skills, supply chain, finance and infrastructure must accompany this bill."

Janet Askew, president of the RTPI, said: "Central and local government need to prioritise planning within their spending plans, in order to deliver vital housing through local plans. It is encouraging that the government remains committed to the plan-led system and to community involvement. We think it is important to speed up plans in England, but are under no illusion that close attention to the real drivers behind the issue of speed and commitment must be paid."

Tom Copley,  Labour's housing spokesman on the London Assembly, said: "These proposals will devastate the capital’s housing market and do nothing but fuel already rocketing house prices by forcing councils to sell off between 3,000 and 4,500 council homes a year. The bill will be another nail in the coffin of genuinely affordable housing. It's as if the government believes we have too many affordable homes in London. The money raised through selling London's council housing will be used to build new Starter Homes in parts of the country where there is no housing crisis. We will have the perverse situation where affordable housing will be sold in London - where we have an unprecedented shortage - to fund the building of new homes in parts of the country where there is no shortage. This is little more than London being used as a cash cow by a government that clearly has no interest in solving London's housing shortage."

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: "Britain’s brownfields sites have been locked for far too long, and we are pleased to see that measures are being put in place to release their potential and get our country building. Enforcing local plans and speeding up delivery on brownfield sites are measures chartered surveyors have long campaigned for, and it is good to see these coming forward in the bill. The mediation between councils and developers regarding section 106 agreements is blocking or slowing down many schemes and is holding up the granting of planning permission. Dispute resolution for these agreements will contribute to the unlocking of many schemes stuck in negotiation and we look forward to working with government to implement this service. We must combine this with the wider measures, including a comprehensive brownfield map that includes privately owned brownfield land, to increase the supply of affordable and rented properties via councils and housing associations."

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "The housing challenge facing the UK is acute, and government is being fairly punchy in the reforms it wants to make to the planning system to deliver new homes. The fact that it is prepared to take on the responsibility of local plans is particularly welcome as these are crucial to creating sustainable development in local communities. There are two things that government must not forget in its headlong pursuit of creating new homes, however. One is that homes for owner occupation are not the only option. The build to rent sector has the potential to deliver a huge number of additional homes and to drive up standards in the rental sector, and must not be disregarded in favour of homes for sale - there is room for both. The other is that thriving communities need a mx of amenities to be a success. In order to create places where people want to live, they need to be places for people, to work, shop, and enjoy themselves, and planning policy must reflect that. We are pleased to see the extension of office to residential permitted development rights taken forward in a sensible manner, and are interested to find out more about what the rights to allow for demolition of offices and new build as residential use will entail. The devil will be in the detail with this, but we would hope that the aim is to encourage the development of high-quality homes, which is of course welcome."

John Healey, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for housing and planning, said: "Britain’s broken housing market is stacked in favour of a lucky few and against young people and families on ordinary incomes. The test for this bill is whether it will change that. Most of all, the government must now show what it will do differently to avoid another five years of failure on housing. Under the Conservatives, we’ve seen five years of higher rents, more homelessness, falling home ownership every year, and fewer homes built than at any time since the 1920s. People are increasingly fed up with announcements and big numbers from the government which aren’t backed up by action. The reality under the Tories is fewer affordable homes, developers being given a completely free hand, rogue landlords profiteering and those on average incomes unable to buy a home of their own."

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