EDITORIAL: Storm clouds gather over housing target

Another week and another key plank of government policy gets into serious trouble. While the government is right to favour development on derelict land, for some time now its 60 per cent target has been pointless.

The desperately low level of house building is the only reason why the target has been met six years running. That is not a record worthy of praise.

Research by English Partnerships suggests that there are serious storm clouds on the horizon. The government can continue to meet its meaningless target, but only in the short term. Only 11 per cent of brownfield land is available for development - an area equivalent to Coventry. Nationally, there is just three years' supply of brownfield land that can be readily developed. In the critical South East, where the government wants to build 200,000 extra homes, this is down to around 18 months.

This is not so much an urban renaissance as an urban retreat. The quango claims that there is more than enough developable brownfield land to meet the region's housing needs. But only time will tell. The jury is still out on the government's regeneration policy. At the very least, the charge sheet against the government's decision to put most of its eggs in one basket is growing. There are serious doubts over providing the infrastructure for the region's growth. Where are the roads, rail, schools, hospitals, electricity and even water going to come from?

The government's reaction has been to dismiss such doubts without bothering to come up with anything convincing. Its much-vaunted statement on the Thames Gateway in August disingenuously presented 15 to 20-year-old plans as new. Other regions in the country cite a haemorrhaging of people and resources to an overheated South East. It all makes sheer lunacy of Whitehall's decision to ignore demands for a national planning framework and a national housing policy.

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