Headlines: November 7th, 2007

Local authorities have called for the planned new Homes and Communities Agency, announced in the Queen’s Speech, to work with councils to find the best ways of delivering new homes. The agency is to be set up under the proposed Housing and Regeneration Bill and will have the job of increasing the number of social and affordable homes that are available.

The Bill was welcomed by the Local Government Association. Paul Bettison, who chairs, the LGA’s environment board, said, “Local authorities agree that people need to have a home they can afford. It is a critical national priority.” Councils would be delivering half a million extra affordable homes by 2020 and the LGA believed the Government had listened to it on the issue.

The new agency will also be responsible for making better use of surplus public sector land, in line with the measures set out in guidance for pilot Local Housing Company schemes that have already been announced, and it will supervise investment in infrastructure as well as ensuring that tenants of social housing get improved services.

Proposals for a Planning Reform Bill, which would see a separate planning system for big infrastructure projects and simpler procedures for small changes such as home improvements, has run into criticism from environmental groups. The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was worried the changes would cut local people out of the process and Friends of the Earth said the moves were bad news for democracy and the environment.