The Government’s decision to bow to pressure from many Conservative MPs and revise proposed planning reforms, aimed at increasing the building of new homes, has been branded a ‘highly regressive lurch backwards’.
According to the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF), the Government has turned its back on the chance to use the housing sector to turbocharge economic recovery and has betrayed a generation of young people that want to own a home of their own.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced that a computer-based formula used to decide where houses should be located has been updated to move the focus away from the South East and to 20 cities and urban areas in England, including London, the latter having been unable to meet its housing need for many years.
Some MPs in the south had complained that their areas risked being "concreted over" by new housing developments. The government has said it wants 300,000 new homes to be built across England each year by the mid-2020s.
But Paul Brocklehurst, chairman of the LPDF, attacked Robert Jenrick’s announcement on the response to Changes to the Current Planning System consultations.
He said: “The Government’s draft Standard Methodology proposed in August sought to find a fairer, more robust method of targeting new housing where it can be delivered, where it is needed most and where a generation’s dreams of owning their own home are impossible to achieve due to unaffordable prices.
“Due to the backlash from its own backbenchers, instead of new homes being built where demand to live is greatest they will now be built where a group of Conservative backbenchers in the south east think they should live.
“Instead of fine-tuning the new formula to reach a solution which could meet people’s aspirations of having a home of their own, whilst achieving the Government’s ‘levelling-up agenda’, the Secretary of State has taken a highly regressive lurch backwards and chosen to abandon the revised methodology altogether and simply revert to previous 2017 figures, which are based on now outdated 2014 household projections. This means that Local Authorities preparing new Local Plans looking forward to 2040 and beyond will be doing so based on a demographic trend period of 2009-2014 that were impacted by the last financial crisis.”
The LPDF, whose members include land promoters, house builders, planners and leading law firms, is working with the Government, local authorities and communities to enhance the planning process, and help deliver the new homes the UK needs.
Paul added: “This is a very disappointing day for the generations who are seeking a way onto the housing ladder and where housing demand has been impacted most by the housing crisis.
“As the country seeks to recover from the worst recession in 300 years, the Government has turned its back on using the housing industry to turbocharge economic recovery and has rewound the clock to the last century in terms of housing delivery.
Ironically, it is reversion to a policy approach that the Prime Minister himself described as recently as August as incapable of delivering “enough homes in the right places”. We will wait and see what this now means for the Government’s proposed wider reforms of the planning system announced in its White Paper on Planning for the Future in which he stated his ambition to “give the people of this country the homes we need in the places we want to live at prices we can afford”.
“Our members will continue to seek a way to ensure that the houses that this country so desperately needs, in the places where people want to live, continue to be delivered but the announcements made on Wednesday are a retrograde step in their delivery.”
Ironically, the Government’s announcement was made on the day that the Office for National Statistics announced that house prices in the year to October 2020 increased by 5.4% to their highest on record (average house price £245,000) - meaning they equated to an eye watering nine times average salary - the Government announced it would boost delivery by seeking to build additional homes in 20, largely Labour Party controlled, major towns and cities. These cities are often constrained by Green Belt and have all systematically failed to meet current housing needs.
“This policy appears to hark back to the Labour Party’s own attempts in 2000 to focus on brownfield first, encapsulated at that time within PPG3, which policies were eased when it became apparent that these centres could not provide the range of type, size and tenure of properties demanded by occupants.”
Whilst, in time, it is understandable that there will need to be a reaction to the impact on town and city centres caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, said Paul, it is too soon to understand how these areas will operate in the medium to long-term whilst the housing need of the country is an immediate issue that needs resolving now.
The Federation would also highlight the following:
- That the change of emphasis is proposed at a time when buyer preferences in respect of housing have been changed by the pandemic – demand for houses, with private open space and immediate access to the countryside has sent prices in certain locations soaring whilst the demand exhausts current supply, in particular in the new homes market.
- A very recent report by Lichfields / Barratt Developments plc - A Home of One’s Own - highlights the challenges of city centre development, the proportionately higher delivery of flats, many with no outdoor space, the size of the flats being built and the likelihood many of these will ‘trap’ their occupiers into a lifetime of ‘renting’;
- That spatially these centres are meant to accommodate employment and leisure uses, often due to the location of transport, and whilst working practices have changed and these may persist there is a challenge in ensuring that we do not add to the pressures on greenfield land release by adding the need created by displaced employment users;
- That the delivery of Affordable Housing will be materially impacted by the proposed policy at a time when the Local Government Association estimates that council waiting lists may touch two million. These developments often make limited contributions by way of Community Infrastructure Levy and S106 payments to improve community infrastructure;