Director hails cities agenda

The compact city concept is at the heart of planning policy despite demands to roll back the green belt, Savills planning director Roger Hepher argued last week.

Speaking at the company's annual residential market briefing, Hepher said the government's drive for three million homes by 2020 has raised huge challenges. But he maintained that the target could be achieved without a wholesale review of green belt designations.

"There are a lot of over-optimistic landowners and investors who think that there is a serious rolling back of the green belt around London and the South East," he commented.

"If everyone pulls together to maximise urban areas, the housing that is needed can be built," Hepher insisted. But he added that it will be a big challenge for local communities to accept high densities and tall buildings.

He also noted that negotiations over section 106 agreements with local authorities have become more intense, particularly in some London boroughs where there is a 50 per cent affordable housing target.

"We are being presented with longer shopping lists," he said. "This is a reflection of the shift in responsibility for community infrastructure towards the development industry rather than the public sector."

Hepher claimed that planning authorities are having to act as the ringmaster, managing requests for infrastructure from different council departments. "It is difficult for them to decide which should have higher priority," he concluded.

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