Homes England promises partnership approach

The deputy chief executive of Homes England has pledged to work with local authorities to unlock growth.

Speaking at an event in Westminster organised by the County Councils Network, Tom Walker said the national agency was ‘committed to working with places, unlocking barriers and targeting our investment alongside your priorities’.

Homes England was officially launched by the-then communities secretary, Sajid Javid, in January as the successor to the Homes and Communities Agency.

Mr Walker said Homes England is a ‘totally new agency, still growing and committed to working in a more place-based flexible way and we will do that together’.

He added leadership, the right resources and developed propositions will all be key to driving the economic growth agenda.

‘When it comes to housing and wider economic development, you have got to have investable propositions,’ said Mr Walker.

‘It’s no good just having top level ideas, if there are not real schemes and real potential for investors, whether foreign, domestic, public or private.

‘This is a deeply relationship-based agenda,’ he added. ‘You have to understand not just the specific site, but the wider local politics.

‘You have to be able to deploy affordable housing grants where needed, but alongside infrastructure improvements where needed and where-ever possible do it through recoverable investment and not grants.’

The deputy chief executive added he sees local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) as having a ‘big role’ to play in the housing agenda.

‘The business voice is crucial in making the case for housing,’ said Mr Walker. ‘I don’t want to see LEPs excluded from the debate on housing and growth. We in the agency will be working closely with LEPs.’

He also welcomed the publication of two reports, which called for county councils to have a stronger role in housing and planning.

The study published yesterday by Catriona Riddell Associatesfor the County Councils Network calls for a re-introduction of strategic planning to closer align planning and infrastructure and to accelerate housing delivery.

‘You are pushing on an open door which you should push at,’ said Mr Walker.

‘The housing crisis is a real crisis,’ he added. ‘I don’t think we are having a debate anymore about the need for new housing. What we are trying to work through is how we are going to deliver more housing, new garden towns and villages and the extension of existing places.’

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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