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Government publishes new housing policy but will it get Britain building?

The Government has published long-awaited reforms to its National Planning Policy Framework, confirming that local housebuilding targets will be advisory rather than compulsory.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said there would be league tables to show how local authorities are performing on planning permissions and housebuilding targets according to five-year plans.

Local authorities will also face central Government interventions if they are seen to be underperforming.


Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, gave a mixed response.

He said: “A renewed focus on councils having local plans and more pressure to deliver much needed new homes for people to rent and buy will be welcomed by Propertymark members up and down the country.

“However, often local plans don’t deliver for existing residents and fail to deliver improved transport links, schools and medical centres as well as focus enough on building housing for an ageing population and homes that are net zero. 

“An infrastructure first approach is needed, alongside providing more resources to local authorities, to deliver the UK Government’s reforms and build homes that the country desperately needs and communities where people want to live and work.”

There was still plenty of criticism though.

Adam Stackhouse, managing director of developments and commercial investments at Winkworth, said: “There is a strong sense among our housebuilder and developer clients that this is ‘too little, too late'. 

“Of course we are delighted to see housing supply being addressed by Michael Gove. The Government seems to be listening and is moving in the right direction by confronting local authorities about their negligent approach to planning applications, and they are right to identify London as another key part of the UK failing to deliver on housing supply.

“However, we must be mindful of the timing. The current Government knows that it is has not delivered on housing and when we observe the proposals that are being promoted, very little of this will be deliverable if they lose office in the next 14 months.”

Stackhouse added that national housing policy should be administered outside of political motivations.

He said: “The electorate has a right to a sufficient supply of housing and for this to be of a suitable standard. Forcing the population to ‘ping-pong’ their living arrangements around the currently elected party is simply unfair and a risk to the nation's health and well-being. This is such a major crisis, with housing supply so far behind where it needs to be, that we can only address this with unified and determined drive to resolve the issue. A national body, free of political motivations, is the only way to see this through."

Matthew Lesh, director of public policy and communications at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, added: “Tougher action on blocker councils, expediting infrastructure upgrades and building 150,000 new homes around Cambridge are welcome and important steps. But today’s announcements largely tinker around the margins rather than fix a broken system. 

“Local objections will still carry disproportionate weight in the planning process. Letting councils with green belts or concerns about local character off the hook will reduce house building.

"The ‘renters reform,’ along with continued environmental and building red tape, reduces development and pushes up house prices and rent.

“Britain’s broken planning system is a straightjacket on our prosperity. Without an honest, fundamental reassessment, the promise of home ownership will continue becoming more remote for more people.”

> Read the National Planning Policy Framework



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