Government announces new approach to planning

The government has announced a new approach to planning, which it claims will provide a ‘realistic picture’ of how many new homes are needed in an area.

The communities secretary, Sajid Javid announced yesterday proposed changes to the planning system which he claimed will ensure councils work together to plan for more homes in the right places.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Javid said the ‘starting point’ for local plans across England should be a total of 266,000 homes per year.

The communities secretary added the proposed system also uses household growth projections published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to establish how many new homes will be needed to meet rising demand.

He said in any area where average house prices are more than four times average earnings, the government will increase the number of homes that will be planned for.

There will also be a cap on the level of increases that local authorities should plan for.

‘If the plan is not up-to-date, the cap will be at 40% above either the level in the plan or the ONS projected household growth for the area,’ whichever is higher,’ the communities secretary told Parliament.

In a statement, the government said the new system ‘does not set targets’, but will instead by a ‘starting point’ to speed up the process for each local area to produce a ‘realistic plan’ of its housing need and review it every five years.

Under the proposals, councils will also have to agree how they will work with their neighbouring areas to plan for new homes and supporting infrastructure.

A new ‘statement of common ground’ will see improved cooperation across boundaries, particularly in relation to garden villages and new towns.

‘Under our proposals, planning authorities will have 12 months to set out exactly how they are working with their counterparts across their housing market area to meet local need and fill any shortfalls,’ said the communities secretary.

‘We are not attempting to micro-manage local development,’ he added.

‘It will be up to local authorities to apply these estimates in their own areas.

‘All we are doing is setting out a clear, consistent process for assessing what may be needed in the years to come,’ said the communities secretary.

A consultation on the proposals runs until 9 November.

In response, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, Martin Tett said: ‘There could be benefits to having a standard approach to assessing the need for housing, but a formula drawn up in Whitehall can never fully understand the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.

‘It is crucial that councils and communities can lead new development in their areas,’ he added.

‘Our residents are clear – new homes in their communities have to be affordable, high-quality, and supported by adequate infrastructure and sustainable local services.

‘The only way to do this is to make sure that councils, who are closest to the communities they serve, have the powers and funding they need to deliver homes that are right for their local area.’


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