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

Planning reforms 2016 – write to your MP

Urgent call for your support. Please write to your MP now about changes to national planning policy which the Government is expected to publish in June.

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Getting the right homes in the right places
We are calling for changes that will ensure the right housing is built in the right places, and prevent unnecessary loss of countryside:

  • Developers should be tasked with building the developments on permissions they already have, before trying to grab more greenfield land.
  • Councils should be empowered to prioritise the use of brownfield sites and restrict competing greenfield development, especially when this would further protect the Green Belt.
  • The Government should abandon proposals to relax Green Belt policy and instead make clearer that unnecessary or major losses of Green Belt should be avoided.
  • Councils should be able to set housebuilding targets that are based on a realistic assessment of what is likely to actually be delivered.

We have prepared a letter which you can send to your local MP. If you have the time to personalise it, it will be even more effective. Go straight to the letter and take action by clicking here.

For a detailed look at Planning reforms 2016: What’s the problem? click here.

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

April 27th 2016.

Battle to save Farthingloe is of national significance

Our nationally significant battle to save an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe appeared in the Observer on Sunday and the Guardian online.

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

Director Hilary newport told the newspaper: “It’s an indictment of our planning system that an organisation like ours is the only one fighting to protect landscapes that should be sacrosanct. We will not give up on the outstanding countryside which is such a fundamental part of our country.

“The unredacted document shows this was a case in the national interest and should not have been left to a local planning committee to determine. There is a real need for more housing, and no one wants to embalm the countryside, but surely this should not be in our most precious, protected landscapes. We feel a sense of utter betrayal that the designation of AONB was ignored in these decisions. What hope is there for the wider countryside if even here there is no protection?”

Lorraine Sencicle, a local historian, said: “The Farthingloe valley is an important part of British history. It is almost pristine, and connected directly with the great church and monastery of St Martin’s in the town centre. You listen to the stupid arguments justifying the development like, ‘Oh well, we need some big executive houses, then big executive people are going to live in them and spend their money in the town,’ and you think, ‘Wake up!’”

Emma Marrington, CPRE’s senior rural policy campaigner, said: “The high court decision over the Dover scheme could set a dangerous precedent for AONBs across the country. Excessive and unsustainable housing targets are being used to justify development in protected areas when we should be focusing on redeveloping brownffield land for the homes we need. Our beautiful and treasured landscapes are meant to receive the highest levels of protection under national planning policy. We need to make sure that this level of protection is enforced.”

To read the full article click here.

Ferbuary 8th 2016.