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The Housing White Paper - next steps

Friday, 09 June 2017 11:55

The Housing White Paper The Housing White Paper

We flagged up the long-awaited Government White Paper on Housing when it was published earlier this year and said that Wiltshire Branch would give our input to CPRE National Office since it was they that would be making a comprehensive response to the consultation.  Here is our overview of the current situation.

The White Paper can be found on the DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) website here.

The new Housing Minister Gavin Barwell (will he still have the role after the election?) has given credit to CPRE for all the campaigning and input from the organisation prior to the publication of the White Paper.  At the CPRE Annual Lecture he said “We’ve not only listened to your input, we’ve taken it on board”.

The White Paper does contain some good ideas, but there are many worrying proposals as well.

Good News.

  • The acceptance of the fact that the planning system is not to blame for everything.
  • The desire to focus more on brownfield land with the aim of giving ‘great weight’ to the value of using such land within settlements.
  • Local authorities should have to make more efficient use of land, avoid low density build and particularly consider higher density in urban locations.
  • A recognition of the dominance of a handful of big developers and the need to encourage small to medium sized companies.  Introduction of measures to bring forward smaller sites.

Bad News.

  • The 5 year housing land supply.  The inability for a district or housing market area to prove it has an adequate 5 year housing land supply means it falls prey to speculative development.  The White Paper does at last acknowledge some of the issues which lead to this situation but proposes a solution which is simply not acceptable.  
  • The proposal is that to avoid challenges from developers on the question of having, or not having, an adequate housing supply, a local authority could apply to have it formally assessed and the figure would be fixed for 12 months.  However in return for this the local authority would have to accept an additional 10% buffer over and above its existing housing targets.
  • The solution for slow delivery, as CPRE has always stated, cannot be simply to release more land.
  • Along with this it is proposed that there will be a Housing Delivery Test which will look at the number of houses a local authority has delivered over the last three years.  Any shortfall will be subject to a range of measures culminating in further land release through speculative development – with all the problems already being experienced.

Green Belt.

The Government has reconfirmed its manifesto pledge to protect Green Belt.  However the White Paper is not convincing in its rhetoric as it waters down the previous positions on Green Belt protection by saying development will only be permitted “when other options have been reasonably explored”.  There is no definition of “reasonably” in the White Paper.

Major Issues.

Major issues arising from the publication of the Housing White Paper but not contained within it:

1.Demonstration of the weaknesses of the planning departments and the Planning Inspectorate due to lack of funding from Government.

2.There are too many Appeals in the system due to staff cutbacks and sections of the NPPF which have caused major issues.

3.Financing for social housing is a problem

4.How to deal with reducing land value depending on the project.  Funding for small builders is an issue under the present financial systems.

5.Greater strengthening of Neighbourhood Plans.  The White Paper falls short of expectation offering only a token power in the form of communities being able to state how much housing they want but with no ability to manage it.

6.A wholesale review of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Next Steps.

As a result of the General Election the continued discussions on the White Paper are in danger of being overcome by other issues.  One further consultation paper is still awaited, on the subject of Objectively Assessed Need.  This is an issue of fundamental importance not only to a local authority and developers, but also to local communities and their views on the type of housing growth within their areas with all its accompanying infrastructure problems.  

Realistic housing targets based on sensible predictions are the key to a satisfactory White Paper. A new standard methodology for calculating the Objectively Assessed Need is promised.  This will be welcome but only if the inputs are properly balanced and not marketing spin.

CPRE will respond to any new information or consultations both nationally and locally.

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