Headlines: December 1st, 2008

Countryside campaigners have set out their agenda for a new direction in housing policy, including local communities having the chance to identify and meet housing needs. The proposals from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England coincides with the new Homes and Communities Agency, which comes into being today.

The CPRE has welcomed the new agency, which has been formed by the merger of English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation and the Academy for Sustainable Communities. It will be the largest regeneration agency in Europe and the CPRE says the early signs of its work are encouraging.
Kate Gordon, CPRE’s Senior Planner, said, “Even before being formally set up the Agency has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders and appears to recognise the importance of working with communities, and addressing environmental concerns.”

She said the market-driven approach that had dominated housing policy had proved disastrous but with its remit and resources, including valuable experience from predecessor bodies, the Homes and Communities Agency was well placed to alter this course.

Setting out its own agenda, the CPRE is calling for a commitment to a plan-led approach to housing supply to ensure that the level and location of house building is tested and agreed through local and regional plans. It also wants local communities to have a voice in identifying local housing needs and the best ways to meet them. It also wants to see the development of the National Land Use Database and the National Brownfield Strategy inherited from English Partnerships and a clear priority being given to urban brownfield development in suitable areas.

The campaigners are calling, too, for the greatest possible use to be made of existing property and empty homes and a higher priority for rural affordable housing. Finally the CPRE is calling on the new Agency not to use its available planning powers unless local planning authorities specifically request it to do so.