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Councils threaten Government housing plan

Britain’s biggest builders and councils have warned that they could block new housing developments as “toothless” reforms have failed to provide enough infrastructure for new homes.
The attack comes on the day the Government will announce a raft of new measures it hopes will kick-start a “housing revolution”.
The Homebuilders’ Federation, County Councils Network and Town and Country Planning Association are among six groups that have written to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, warning that there is “not enough reason for planning authorities in particular to co-operate [with county councils that control infrastructure], and often strong reasons not to”.
They have called on the Government to give more power to county councils to ensure areas have enough infrastructure to match the scale of new ­development.
The group of councils and housebuilders has said that the Government needs to strengthen its proposed Statement of Common Ground, announced in last year’s housing White Paper, and which is meant to ensure that infrastructure matches housing development in England’s 27 shire counties.
Councils threaten Government housing plan

Sajid Javid will launch a new raft of planning reforms

Credit:
Reuters
The group said there is currently not a strong enough agreement between county councils (which are responsible for major infrastructure such as roads and schools) and local district councils (which control planning permission). This means some councils can rubber-stamp housing without consulting on what infrastructure is needed, and how it will be financed.
Cllr Philip Atkins, vice-chairman of the County Councils Network, said: “In its present format, [the Statement of Common Ground] is a toothless instrument. It must include a formal role for the county council, to better match ­infrastructure with housing development”.
Some councils can rubber-stamp housing without consulting on what infrastructure is needed, and how it will be financed
The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning, and Transport and the Association of County Chief Executives were also signatories of the letter to Mr Javid.
In the announcement of new measures, the Government will also increase pressure on developers to deliver homes.
Dominic Raab, the housing minister, told the Mail on Sunday: “Planning permissions should be viewed more as contracts for delivery, not the start of a haggling process that exhausts local authorities and frustrates communities.”
This represents a “very encouraging” change in tone, said Daniel Bentley of Civitas.
“One of the major problems with the planning system is that when permissions are granted, resulting in enormous windfalls for landowners, there is no obligation to actually build homes,” he said.
“The result is that land is bid up to prices that require slow buildout rates that do not bear down on current house prices. This could be overcome if permissions came with contracts stipulating that homes must be built and within a certain time frame.”
It comes as Mr Javid turns the heat up on councils, saying that the planning system “will no longer allow ‘Nimby’ councils that don’t really want to build the homes that their local community needs to fudge the numbers”.
Are developers on the verge of building fewer homes?
 
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