Government takes up Callcutt's advice

The government has announced a raft of measures intended to speed up housing delivery on the back of the Callcutt review of house building issued this week.

Housing and planning minister Yvette Cooper said the government will introduce fast-track contracts to help speed development of homes on public sector land.

The move is in line with John Callcutt's recommendation for local authorities to team up with developers to fully exploit brownfield sites' viability. The new Homes and Communities Agency should take a key role in advising councils on identifying redevelopment opportunities, he urged.

Callcutt said there will still be a need for some new settlements and edge-of-town schemes but insisted that urban sprawl must be avoided. He concluded that the industry is capable of delivering the government's target of 240,000 homes a year by 2016 if the recommendations are followed.

Cooper said the DCLG will change the rules to stop developers sitting on planning permissions as the review advises (see page 2). She also accepted Callcutt's call for a delivery body to oversee progress on target for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016.

Callcutt also called for an independent design review body to examine the quality of schemes nationwide. He said this could be run by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which already has a design review panel.

CABE director of campaigns and education Matt Bell said: "We would be very open to conversation about how design review can be extended. Every significant housing-led scheme should go before a design review panel prior to going to a planning committee."

But he criticised the suggestion that once a scheme passes the design review it cannot be challenged by the planning authority.

RTPI president Jim Claydon said: "Planners need to feel confident in refusing poorly designed schemes because they are under pressure to meet targets."

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