Headlines: October 5th, 2005

Countryside campaigners are calling for the scrapping of Government plans for a market-based approach to the way England plans to meet housing needs and instead are urging steps to make use of empty homes and brownfield sites. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England says the Government’s proposals would not just devastate the countryside but would fail to meet the need for affordable housing.In a manifesto published today it sets out a series of measures that it believes would provide the necessary new homes in less damaging ways. Among the measures it wants are a major increase in public investment in affordable housing and stronger planning controls over the types of homes that are built to ensure that developments match local needs.

The campaigners are also calling for stronger measures to cut the number of empty homes and want to see a national target set for bringing that about. The manifesto urges steps to encourage the use of existing properties, including VAT reform to promote regeneration and reuse. It wants more homes to be built on brownfield sites, setting a specific target of three-quarters of new homes being developed on ‘recycled’ land by 2008 alongside the strengthening of the sequential approach to ensure brownfield land is used before new sites are released for development.

The CPRE says it believes decisions about how many homes should be built and where they should go should be based on local need and take into account the capacity of the local environment to accommodate development. The manifesto stresses the need for a strong planning system, setting it as a prerequisite for public consensus on the scale, location and pace of change and ensuring the best use is made of limited natural resources.

CPRE’s Policy Director Neil Sinden said the organisation was not alone in voicing concerns about the Government’s plans for housing. Local authorities, the housing charity Shelter and the Royal Institute of Town Planning had all questioned aspects of it. “It makes absolutely no sense to plan for a massive increase in market housing when people’s overwhelming need is for subsidised, affordable housing. A growing number of people cannot afford to buy or rent on the open market and too many of the homes we are building fail to respond to their needs,” he said.