A new approach has been devised by English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, to speed up the development of large scale planning applications. In a parallel move the Housing Corporation will adopt new approaches to support investment in developments. The proposals are set out in a report ‘Cascades: improving certainty in the delivery of affordable housing’.
Large scale planning developments often stall because as programmes evolve there is increasing recognition of uncertainties and this highlights growing risks. Research by a group led by English Partnerships into the problem showed that a significant factor is the risk that funding will not be available for affordable homes, especially if a scheme stretches over several Housing Corporation investment programmes.
The report proposes that the overall planning negotiation should include a cascade agreement that includes options for varying the quantity, tenure and mix of affordable homes over the lifetime of a large scheme. There should be a process framework or holistic project management approach with references at key stages to the main steering board responsible for setting the vision and objectives for the scheme. The report quotes the example of Bedford Borough Council which has successfully used cascades to unlock a development programme of 8,000 homes.
The Housing Corporation is also developing new approaches to investment that will enhance the value achieved from public subsidy, allow more frequent market engagement and provide more certainty for regionally prioritised strategic sites. Currently the Housing Corporation’s funding is based on a three year investment programme but there is now potential to make allocations over five years for strategic sites.