Report 'calls for clear and consistent' devolved planning powers across England

There should be a 'clear and consistent framework' for the devolution of housing and planning powers across England to help deliver more affordable homes, a report has recommended.

New homes: report says regions are falling short of meeting need
New homes: report says regions are falling short of meeting need

The report, Priced Out? Affordable Housing in England, by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank looks at the different approaches taken by elected mayors across England to address housing need.

Specifically, the report looks at the West of England, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Tees Valley.

The report finds that in only the Tees Valley does housebuilding meet estimates of housing need.

The study says that the west of England needs to build an additional 1,060 homes a year, and the West Midlands 2,812, adding that the "imbalance between supply and need is greatest in Greater Manchester, which misses its target by 42 per cent or 4,518 homes".

Using an analysis conducted by Planning magazine of housing need figures across England calculated using the government’s proposed standardised needs assessment, the report says that the new model "may undermine other points of government policy, such as those set out in the recent industrial strategy green paper" as housing targets in areas such as the Midlands and North of England are likely to be revised downwards.

"Ensuring there is sufficient building to house growing workforces will be key in attracting talent and in avoiding the problems seen in the capital", the report says.

Amongst its recommendations, the document says that greater powers should be devolved to mayors to deliver the housing their regions need.

"In the first instance, this should create a clear and consistent framework for the devolution of housing and planning powers and apply these equally across the country", it says.

The document says that the government should lift "National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) land use restrictions where brownfield opportunities alone are insufficient to deliver the housing supply that is estimated". It also says that mayors should get powers to "set planning fees to improve capacity in planning departments".

Other recommendations include:

  • Government should "take a stronger approach to affordable housing at a national level, ensuring that a threshold of 35 per cent for affordable housing is applied to all private developments, with a higher threshold of 50 per cent on all public land, in line with the approach adopted by the Mayor of London".
  • Government should support "a large-scale council house building programme by removing the arbitrary cap placed on borrowing through the Housing Revenue Account".
  • A "universally understood and clear measure of affordability should be developed, linked to earnings, and applied transparently for every affordable housing product – with the development of an affordability matrix that sets out when each housing product becomes affordable".
  • Mayors "should establish combined authority-wide Mayoral Housing Companies, using them to bring land to market for social and affordable rent and using mechanisms to capture public value from the land".

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