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16th February 2016

Housing and Planning Bill - a Shot In The Arm for the Planning System

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On 26 January the Housing and Planning Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords. Introduced by the Government into Parliament last October, the Housing and Planning Bill has the aim of assisting the Government in delivering their target of 1 million new homes by 2020. During her opening speech Government Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford described the bill as a “shot in the arm for the planning system”. The purpose of the Bill is to “increase home ownership, get homes built where they are needed and ensure that social and private housing markets are fair, free from excessive regulation and fit for the future.
It was widely acknowledged within the debate that there is a deficit of good quality affordable housing throughout the UK. It was suggested within the debate that approximately 300,000 new homes will need to built in order keep up with demand. 

Opposition members of the House of Lords voiced some interesting concerns over whether the Housing and Planning Bill would have the intended effect of addressing the shortage of housing supply within the UK. Baroness Andrews accepted that changes needed to be made as last year under half of the 300,000 new homes that were needed to keep up with demand for housing were not built. Baroness Andrews did not see the current planning legislation as the reason for this delay, asserting that “the real enemies housing crisis are lack of finance, skills, building supplies and land, and the huge loss of planning capacity in local authorities through planning cuts.

Delays within the planning system were also considered by Lord Lansley, former MP for South Cambridgeshire. He used the example of Northstowe, a 10,000 home new town which was first proposed 15 years ago, with a target of 6,000 of these homes to be built by 2016. Owing to delays within the housing process, caused by many external factors such as the allocation of the site as a new eco-town which further delayed the development process, none of the proposed dwellings are currently ready for occupation in an area with a housing supply shortage already.

The Housing and Planning Bill has a difficult challenge ahead of it from a planning perspective – to ensure that the supply of housing within the UK is sufficient to meet the ever-growing demand for good quality housing. With the current delays to development, it will be crucial that the Housing and Planning Bill is able to minimise prolonged delays to ensure that land which is allocated for development can be built upon in a timely manner.  The Housing and Planning Bill may not be able to do this on its own, but it should reduce the bureaucratic process. It will be just as important to ensure that developers are able to build on housing sites through ensuring they have access to finance, workforce supplies, and support from local authorities which will be necessary in order to increase the supply of housing. 

For more information on the Housing and Planning Bill, please contact Gemma Dudley.