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Government urged to treat major housing schemes as key infrastructure projects

by on September 24, 2015

Ministers should consult on bringing large-scale housing schemes within the Planning Act 2008 regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), a report commissioned by law firm Bond Dickinson and planning consultants Quod has urged.

The report, based on the views of housing and planning experts in both the public and private sectors, claimed that use of the NSIP regime could harness the power of the private sector and “relieve hard-pressed local authority budgets”.

Less than half the estimated 240,000 new homes needed each year were completed in 2014, and the last six years had seen the lowest level of house building since the Second World War, it added.

The report insisted that there was widespread support for creating new settlements on the scale of the post-war New Towns to address the housing crisis.

However, it argued that this was unlikely to happen without policy and legislation that overcame the current barriers to bringing forward large-scale housing and mixed use projects within the current planning system.

The report noted recent research suggesting that only 25 per cent of local planning authorities had a local plan which had been adopted as sound since the publication of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.

The NSIP regime’s advantages included fixed timescales for decision-making, a single consenting process that includes compulsory purchase, and the confidence provided by the upfront establishment of need.

Other ways of delivering large-scale housing were reviewed for the report, including existing mechanisms such as Urban Development Corporations, updated New Towns legislation, the use of expanded Local Development Orders, some form of deregulated New Homes Zone, and new proposals such as garden city commissions. However all of these “rely on the public sector to rise to the challenge,” argued the report.

Quod director John Rhodes, who was last week appointed by the Government to chair a panel examining ways to streamline local plans, said: “Remedying the chronic under-provision of housing should be an economic and a social priority.

“At present, however, developers are denied access to the national infrastructure planning process for housing proposals and thereby denied the use of the single most effective regime for delivering development.

“With appropriate safeguards in place, the use of the NSIP regime would transform the ability of the private sector to make a meaningful contribution to the national housing crisis.”

View the press release

Roger Milne

  1. My family business was established in 1935 and we have been developing new housing projects since that time becoming a small independent developer in the main. When times have been difficult we have taken to contracting work to keep a workforce occupied and returning to housing developments when the market dictates better times. Any profits that may have been made during this time have been spent locally, supporting charities, local sports teams etc but essentially employing a local workforce who also spend their hard earned gains, locally. The constraints put upon companies of our size and nature nowadays by the planning authority in the shape of Section 106 Affordable housing agreements do not make it conducive to employ people, especially when contributions are expected to be paid, before what would be affordable homes that aren’t taken up by registered housing providers, have been able to be sold on the open market. To expect a small builder to pay the contribution, having already paid for the labour and materials used to build these affordable homes, before the chance of getting funds in is ridiculous. Fine, put a charge on these properties but at least allow the developer to get them sold before he is expected to hand over the affordable housing contribution.

    The construction sector is plagued with these forms of stealth taxes, way more than any other sector I am aware of. Please educate me, if this statement is wrong.

  2. Nick Ford permalink

    The first comment doesn’t address the article but talks of S106 and affordable housing. If the developers weren’t se greedy (charitable donations are but a drop in the ocean of the income and can be offset against tax) in putting as many houses on a piece of land as possible (we have the smallest houses in Europe) and having to be coerced into benefits for the community for ruining an area by building on greenfield sites instead of brownfield sites (because its cheaper). The big companies don’t give a fig for local communities they just pay lip service to get what they want and build “vanilla flavour” houses that look the same anywhere in Britain instead of being built of the same materials as existing houses to blend in properly. By using NSIPs it is a way of getting round localism promised and implemented by this government to satisfy their own pockets and avoid planning costs. They must be cloud cuckoo land if they think that “there was widespread support for creating new settlements on the scale of the post-war New Towns”. I think not most communities oppose and resist these huge developments as destroying the infrastructure and social fabric of local communities. I notice also they want to limit the timescales and have compulsory purchase on a whim, typical of these carpetbaggers who are happy to destroy people’s homes and communities just they can turn a profit for themselves. I would resist as much as possible any changes to the present planning legislation.

    Nick Ford
    A local councillor.

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