Worcester MP Robin Walker has today hailed major reforms to the planning process that will help meet the Government’s ambitious and necessary housebuilding targets and provide high-quality homes in the right locations.
In a speech yesterday, the Prime Minister launched a major overhaul to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that focused on maximising the use of land, strengthening protections for the green belt and placing greater emphasis on ensuring that planning permissions are converted into homes as swiftly as possible.
The Government has already delivered more than a million homes since 2010, and last year saw the biggest increase in housing supply in England – over 217,000 new homes – for almost a decade. In contrast, Labour left behind housebuilding at its lowest level since the 1920s with homeownership in decline as house prices soared – with the level of price to income almost doubling. Under Labour, Housing Starts UK-wide crashed to just 124,000.
Although significant progress has been made, more must still be done to deliver the Government’s target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. Today’s overhaul of the NPPF – the first in six years – provides a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly, in the places people want to live. Councils and developers will now be required to work with community groups to ensure those affected by new developments will have a say on how they look and feel.
Among the measures announced today were:
Maintaining strong environmental protections
The Government is maintaining protections for the Green Belt and making clear what ‘exceptional circumstances’ must be met before areas can review theirs. New measures to make it easier to build housing on previously developed green belt land will help protect the unspoilt green belt that communities value most. The NPPF also introduces new protections for ancient woodlands.
Making sure developers contribute to infrastructure and affordable housing
People should know how they will benefit from new development in their area. Reforms of the developer contributions system, and viability assessments, will bring more certainty and deal with abuses of the system.
The right development in the right location
More freedom will be given to local authorities to make the most of existing brownfield land to build homes that maximise density. Redundant land will be encouraged such as under-utilised retail or industrial space for homes, with more flexibilities given to extend upwards on existing blocks of flats and houses as well as shops and offices.
Ensuring variety and choice for everyone in our housing market
Delivering more affordable homes that meet the housing needs of everyone wherever they are in their life, including sites dedicated for first-time buyers, build to rent homes with family-friendly tenancies, guaranteed affordable homes for key workers and adapted homes for older people.
A more transparent planning process
Local authorities will be encouraged to work together and continue to close the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built. A new standardised approach to assessing housing need will be introduced with new measures to make the system of developer contributions clearer, simpler and more robust, so developers understand what’s expected of them and will be in no doubt that councils will hold them to their commitments.
The Prime Minister also reiterated the Government’s commitment to tackling homelessness, with the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act providing councils with an additional £400million to target the issue nationwide, as part of a £1billion package aimed at halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eradicating it altogether by 2027.
Housing Secretary and Worcestershire MP Sajid Javid said:
“An entire generation is being locked out of a broken housing market as prices and rents race ahead of supply. Reforming the planning system is the crucial next step to building the homes the country needs.”
“This government is determined to fix the broken housing market and restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation. There is no silver bullet to this problem but we’re re-writing the rules on planning so we can take action on all fronts.”
Speaking after the Prime Minister’s speech, Robin said:
“It was fantastic news last year that the number of first-time buyers was at its highest in more than a decade, but we still have further to go to make sure enough homes are built and housing becomes more affordable.”
“The planning process is often lengthy and inaccessible to the public, and so I am glad that reforms are being introduced to make this system more open and accountable to the communities it serves. Ensuring that developers contribute to affordable housing and infrastructure in the vicinity of a development is another vital step in making sure the whole community benefits from housebuilding and that developers pay their fair share.”
“I am also glad to see more measures being introduced to help local authorities maximise the use of brownfield sites, as this is something I have always believed should be prioritised before any development on our green belt. We are lucky to be surrounded by such a beautiful natural environment in Worcester, and building the homes we need does not need to come at the cost of damaging our countryside when ex-industrial or commercial space within the city can be repurposed for housing.”
“After housebuilding starts fell to their lowest rates since the 1920s under the last Labour government, we have been working hard to reverse that trend and ensure that home ownership is affordable for the next generation. At the last election Labour promised to abolish the Help to Buy scheme – an extraordinary move given that so many people in Worcester have benefitted from it. And just last week, the Labour opposition in Parliament voted against a stamp duty cut that will benefit 80% of first time buyers – demonstrating that only the Conservatives are committed to taking the action needed to help young people get on the housing ladder. ”
Notes to editors
To read the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework and to submit responses, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-revised-national-planning-policy-framework
For Robin’s previous statements on housing, please see: