Headlines: July 19th, 2005

Local planning authorities have been told they will need to work together and be more flexible to the needs of the housing market. Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, said the planning system needed a ‘shake up’ so it could respond better to market demand for more homes and to help more first time buyers afford their own properties.He has announced a new consultation, ‘Planning for Housing Provision’, which will ensure that in housing growth areas, such as the Thames Gateway, the system would be able to respond to demand by making appropriate land available more quickly. At the same time a second consultation is to be carried out on a new Greenbelt Direction to provide stronger planning controls in Greenbelt areas, including closer scrutiny of applications and the referral of significant developments to the Secretary of State.

The Government is to seek views on changes to the planning system that would see house prices and other market information taken into account when deciding what level of house building is needed. The proposals would also review regional plans when there are changes in housing market conditions and plan for a 15-year time frame with a rolling five-year supply of appropriate land. A new Circular on planning obligations has been issued as a step towards delivering additional housing and the supporting infrastructure more quickly by streamlining the current system and making it more transparent.

The Government says using Brownfield land for new homes and building at higher densities already means 1.1 million homes can be built on less land than had previously been set aside for 900,000 properties.

John Prescott said the proposals would mean the planning system could respond faster to the housing market and local needs, allowing more homes to be built where they were needed. At the same time, protection of the Greenbelt would be strengthened. The announcement, he said, would also encourage private development to pay for public services such as schools and roads as well as affordable housing.

Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said the planning system currently failed to take proper account of pressures in the housing market resulting in some areas facing chronic shortages with building rates lower than they had been 30 years ago. Meanwhile, other areas faced problems of low demand and homes were being boarded up because building had outstripped demand.