UK Government: Planning must respond better to housing shortage

Investment property news: M2 PRESSWIRE

A shake-up of the planning system is needed to respond better to market demand for more homes, ensuring more first time buyers get the chance to afford homes of their own, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said today.

Announcing new proposals to tackle the housing shortage and related longer term economic problems, the Deputy Prime Minister said local planning authorities will need to work together to be more flexible and responsive to the local housing market.

A new consultation, Planning for Housing Provision, will help ensure that in housing growth areas, such as Thames Gateway, the planning system is able to respond to demand by making appropriate land available more swiftly for building new homes.

In addition, a consultation on a new Greenbelt Direction will provide strengthened planning controls in greenbelt areas, ensuring closer scrutiny of planning applications and the referral of significant developments for the Secretary of State's consideration.

Building more new homes on brownfield sites and at higher densities already means we can build 1.1 million homes on less land than the previous Government set aside for just 900,000 homes - saving over 5,000 ha, an area of greenfield land greater than the size of Norwich.

The Deputy Prime Minister said:

"For decades, this country has built too few homes, with the result that too many people on moderate incomes can't afford a home.

"The measures announced today will help us plan more homes in the right places, whilst protecting the environment and providing jobs and public services.

"Today's proposals will mean the planning system can respond faster to the housing market and local needs, so that more homes can be built where they're needed. At the same time, we're strengthening protection of the Green Belt through greater scrutiny of planning applications.

And today's announcement will also encourage private development to pay for public services like schools, roads, and affordable housing which are needed to create sustainable communities."

In addition to today's planning package, the ODPM is publishing jointly with HM Treasury, More and Better Homes, setting out the importance of the Government's housing agenda for achieving the UK's social and economic priorities and for delivering stability and opportunity.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "The economic stability and rising prosperity delivered since 1997, including the lowest mortgage rates for 40 years, has already given a million more people the confidence to become home owners. Over the next five years we want to extend home-ownership to a further million people.

"We already have a wide-ranging strategy in place to help those seeking to buy a home for the first time, including shared equity schemes and raising the stamp duty threshold so that over 50% of first time buyers pay no stamp duty. But as Kate Barker's analysis and today's paper make clear, we mustnow go further to boost the supply of housing to ensure affordable homes for the future."

The Government needs to reform the planning system to ensure it can respond better to housing market changes to address the long-term costs to the economy and the problems faced by first-time buyers, who are currently being priced out of the housing market, especially in the South East.

By 2002 just 37% of new households could afford to buy a home, compared to 46% of new households in the late 80s. Analysis shows that if we continue at the rate of house building we have seen, that figure is likely to drop to a third. Over the last 30 years housing demand has increased due to demographic change and rising incomes, yet new housing supply has dropped by 30% compared to several decades ago.

Minister for Housing and Planning Yvette Cooper said:

"Currently the planning system fails to take proper account of pressures in the housing market. The result is some areas with chronic shortages and building rates far lower than 30 years ago, whilst others face problems of low demand and boarded up homes because building has outstripped demand.

"There are huge social and economic consequences when the planning system whether it be for first time buyers and businesses in high demand areas or deprived communities on low demand estates. That is why it is important for the planning system to take better account of pressures in the housing market and to keep the priority for brownfield development."

The Government is consulting on changes to the planning system to:

* take into account house prices and other market information when deciding what level of house building is necessary;

* plan for a 15-year time frame with a rolling five-year supply of appropriate land

* review regional plans when there are changes in housing market conditions and;

* Continue to focus on brownfield sites for development.

A new Circular on planning obligations, also published today, will help deliver this additional housing and the supporting infrastructure more quickly by streamlining the operation of the current system and making it more transparent.

- 18 July 2005

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