Planning for Housing: Housing delivery test is a 'blunt instrument', says housebuilder

A leading housebuilder has criticised the government's proposed new housing delivery test as a 'blunt instrument'.

Tony Pidgeley speaking earlier today
Tony Pidgeley speaking earlier today

Tony Pidgley, chairman of the Berkeley Group, was speaking earlier today at the Planning for Housing conference.

The delivery test, which would penalise councils for under-delivering on homes, is one of the flagship elements of the government's housing white paper.

But Pidgley said: "We get the best reaction when we engage with the local community and local members rather than putting more pressure on local authorities to deliver."

Pidgley said that effective measures were already in place, through the appeals system, to penalise councils who weren’t meeting their housing need or without an adopted local plan.

He said: "If you don’t follow the National Planning Policy Framework and have a local plan, you are in trouble. We know how to win that fight. Local authorities know that if they don’t have the numbers, they lose the appeal."

Elsewhere, Pidgley criticised the government’s response to the housing crisis and said their decisions in deciding appeals are too slow: "I don’t believe the government has any sense of urgency."

Pidgley also backed the mayor of London’s new viability supplementary planning guidance that allow developers who meet an affordable housing level of 35 per cent a smoother journey through the planning process.

He said: "We welcome the Greater London Authority position, it’s very straightforward. I like knowing where we stand."

Developers should make a decision on viability when they buy the site, Pidgley said: "That’s the point at which we take the risk."

He also called for developers to "show integrity" by being more transparent over viability and said speculators who hoard land should have their planning permissions removed.

Planning should involve less bureaucracy and focus more on housebuilding, Pidgley went on to say.

In particular, section 106 agreements take too long to agree and are too detailed, he added, citing one that took two years

He said: "The section 106 should be part of the planning application. They should standardise it and have a clear system. By the time lawyers are involved, it goes on forever."

Also speaking was councillor Keith House, the Lib Dem leader of Eastleigh Borough Council and deputy chair of the Local Government Association's environment, economy housing and transport board.

House said: "The housing delivery test is below the radar at the moment with most local authorities.

"The new housing need figures are going to sharpen their minds quite quickly so they think about their role in delivery. It will be a shock to them."

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