CPRE Kent responds to PM’s housing speech

Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, on Politics Today
(image: BBC)

CPRE Kent has given a guarded response to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech today (Monday, March 5) in which she highlighted planning reforms and stressed the need to stop housebuilders ‘banking’ land by not building homes for which they had planning permission.
Mrs May told the National Planning Conference in London that the National Planning Policy Framework was to be revamped, via consultation, confirming up to 80 proposals put forward last year. These include:

  • Councils having to adopt a new nationwide standard showing housing need in their areas
  • 10% of homes on major sites being made available for affordable ownership
  • Builders being more open about commitments to affordable housing at the planning stage
  • Infrastructure being considered pre-planning
  •  Councils considering overturning planning permission after two years if building has not started
  •  Ancient woodland and aged trees being protected

Mrs May attacked the attitude of developers who had a financial incentive in hoarding land with planning permission for homes, condemning specifically bosses receiving bonuses “based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price”.
“In a market where lower supply equals higher prices, that creates a perverse incentive, one that does not encourage them to build the homes we need,” she said.
Referring to the issue of land-banking, Mrs May said: “I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise. I expect developers to do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.”
Giving the view of CPRE Kent, director Hilary Newport, who appeared today on the BBC’s Politics Today show, said: “Nothing is wrong about building new houses, but the crisis is one of affordability, not availability.
“Simply building more and more houses is not going to bring down affordability. What we need is more homes in the right places and that requires social policy.
“What we are keen to see are proper policies that make houses more affordable.
“I think we need to consider a return to social housing because it is impossible for people to get a foot on the housing ladder in London and the South East.”
Mrs Newport also addressed the issue of protecting the Green Belt.
“It is difficult to see how it can be [protected] when you look at how many houses places like Sevenoaks needs with huge targets,” she said.
Mrs May’s speech comes shortly after the release of a study by CPRE and housing charity Shelter showing how housebuilders are using a legal loophole to avoid building affordable homes in the countryside.
Looking at eight rural councils over the course of a year, the analysis shows that half the affordable homes councils were required to build were lost when viability assessments were used.
Developers use ‘viability assessments’ to argue that building affordable homes could reduce their profits to below some 20%, giving them the right to cut their affordable housing quota.
This results in developers over-paying for land and recouping costs by squeezing their affordable housing commitments.
Both CPRE and Shelter are calling on the government to use its review of planning rules to close the loophole.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “The lack of affordable housing is often overlooked as an urban-only problem. It cannot be ignored any longer. Too much of our countryside is eaten up for developments that boost profits but don’t meet local housing needs because of the ‘viability’ loopholes.
“CPRE is calling for urgent action from the government to close these loopholes to increase the delivery of affordable housing – otherwise rural communities risk losing the young families and workers which they need to be sustainable.
“We must ensure that we are building housing that people need and can afford across England – including the countryside.”

See CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport on Politics Today here

Monday, March 5, 2018

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