Homes England reveals plan to boost housing delivery across South East

A plan to 'significantly increase' housing delivery across the South East and to provide 'additional professional skills capacity' for councils are among the goals in a new five-year strategy published by the government's housing agency.

New housing. Pic: Paul Riddle
New housing. Pic: Paul Riddle

Homes England yesterday published its Strategic Plan, 2018/19 – 2022/23, which outlines their objectives over the next five years.

The strategy's broad goals include supporting local areas with housing delivery, unlocking land and creating a more competitive housing market.

On supporting local areas, the agency says that, between 2018 and 2020, it will "work collaboratively with local areas to identify and overcome barriers to growth, such as infrastructure and planning".

Specific objectives include securing approval for a 3,500 home masterplan and outline planning for the "Northern Arc" new settlement in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, where Homes England is a master developer.

It also says it would, in the next two years, support implementation of the West Midlands, West of England, Oxfordshire and Greater Manchester housing deals and negotiate new housing deals with "areas that experience housing affordability challenges and share our ambition for housing growth".

Longer term priorities include developing a "plan for the South East to significantly increase housing delivery across the region, by the mid-2020s". 

In response to a request from Planning for more details on the plan, a Homes England spokeswoman said: "Homes England is committed to delivering in areas of greatest need. 

"A large part of the South East has acute affordability challenges and we are therefore working closely with local authorities, housing associations and housebuilders, large and small to significantly increase supply in this critical part of the country."  

She added that work on the plan is ongoing and no more details were available at this stage.

Other long-term goals in the strategy include:

  • Supporting local authorities’ growth ambitions "by providing additional professional skills capacity where required". 
  • Supporting the "delivery of new settlements, major urban extensions and significant additional housing" in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge arc, subject to "consultation, further analysis and government decisions".
  • Supporting "joined up housing and infrastructure delivery in major new corridors such as the Thames Estuary".
  • Aligning the "delivery of housing with major transport infrastructure projects such as High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse rail where possible".

Measures to create a more competitive housing market include, in the longer term, exploring "opportunities for removing the planning burdens faced by smaller builders on more complex sites".

The agency also promises to "promote good design across the sector" to reflect new measures in July's revised National Planning Policy Framework that have "embedded high-quality design in the planning process". 

It adds: "Our main focus over the next five years will be to utilise and promote design quality assessment tools to ensure that we deliver high-quality schemes."

Elsewhere, Homes England pledges to unlock housing growth through its £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to allow local authorities "to bring forward land they could otherwise not develop". 

It also says it will "acquire land and invest in enabling infrastructure to bring forward developable sites where the market will not, using our £1.03 billion Land Assembly Fund".

The strategy reiterates the agency's plan to "almost double in size over the next 18 months", which Homes England executive director for land Stephen Kinsella revealed at the Planning for Housing conference earlier this month.

Homes England was launched in January 2018 to replace its predecessor the Homes and Communities Agency, with a remit to acquire land and support brownfield development to help boost housing supply.

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