Headlines: September 16th, 2004

Local council leaders, town planners and housing specialists have made a joint call for new Regional Assemblies to maintain separate boards for planning and housing – at least for the time being – to ensure there is a strong voice for housing at a regional level. The call is contained in a new report, “Intelligent approaches to housing – achieving better integration in planning for housing” from the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Local Government Association and the Royal Town Planning Institute.

It says a continued separate identity for planning and housing boards ‘will ensure that housing and spatial planning issues retain an explicit voice and that needs arising from both sectors are debated openly rather than mediated within an organisation.’ It follows concern that until there is comprehensive integration a need remains to safeguard the much-needed strong voice for housing. The report recommends that Regional Assemblies be required to promote integration at local and sub regional levels.

The document looks at progress already being made in the integration of planning for housing, such as the new strategy based housing investment regime and the introduction of regional planning bodies and housing boards themselves.

It says there is still more to be done and lists twenty-one recommendations for the government, local authorities the Assemblies and the Housing Corporation. They range from developing joint regional spatial and long-term investment strategies to ensuring that planning for housing sub-regions is more closely aligned. The report also urges councils to look at training and involving housing associations and the private sector and suggests the Housing Corporation should examine how well its partner housing associations address regional spatial and housing priorities. The Corporation, it says, should also improve its monitoring of delivery.

Merron Simpson, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing said, “The sustainable communities agenda has bought us to this point. Spatial and investment strategies need to be much better co-ordinated at all levels. Both the housing and planning professions have something to offer and this report is intended to help make the partnership a successful one.”