Our Response to the Housing White Paper

Our Planning Group has recently submitted its response to the Housing White Paper.

Within the wide-ranging White Paper, there were some proposals to welcome, including encouragement of small and custom-builders, greater emphasis on design standards, more support for providers of affordable houses, increased powers for local authorities to assemble land and deliver homes themselves, a hike in application fees to help cash-strapped planning departments, and the potential introduction of an appeal fee.

But, if anything, the White Paper increased our grave concern that in the drive to build more homes, local authorities will feel compelled to turn to Green Belt or other designated land. They are still being required to make every effort to meet theoretically-assessed “need” locally if at all possible, with no “automatic” allowance given to reduce numbers even when there is significant Green Belt or other designated land. Furthermore, the proposed revised wording of national planning policy implies that use of Green Belt land will be a legitimate way to do this, once all other options have been explored. The problem is exacerbated in areas like the Chilterns, when neighbouring authorities are also “constrained” by protected land, thus removing the scope to transfer provision elsewhere.

On top of this, the sanctions that already apply when local authorities fail to maintain a 5-year supply of allocated housing land are being supplemented by an additional housing delivery test (based on the numbers of homes actually built), seemingly oblivious to the fact that the actual delivery of housing is almost wholly outside of their control.

Even under the existing rules, 8 out of 10 local authorities in the Chilterns are seriously considering use of Green Belt land, so these threats are real and current.

Early consultation on a revised method of calculating need was promised by the White Paper, but the general election will inevitably delay this. As well as responding to consultations of this sort, our Planning Campaign is using various means to highlight these dangers and lobby for changes to the rules.

Our full response is available here and the Housing White Paper itself is available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/fixing-our-broken-housing-market