The White Paper proposals to stimulate housing growth, has to be welcomed. It is not lost on me, when visiting various local planning authorities, there are real resource issues. The idea of increasing planning fees, and dedicated to swell the number of planners handling planning applications, will make strides in quicker planning decisions. However the political intransigence of some authorities to embrace higher housing numbers, sometimes against officer advice is still a drag on homes deliver. This is well shown with Castle Point District where resistance to meet an objectively assessed housing need, wasn’t helped by the “cold shoulder” of adjoining authorities to assist with the housing need.
Economic & Social Benefits
The measures for stimulating growth remain in the form of emerging administrative reforms and new fiscal measures. They seem to take an age to come forward. In the meantime the urgency of housing need is reflected in the recent appeal decisions, where the Secretary of State has overridden an Inspectors recommendation, even when a five year housing supply has been shown to exist. More frequent than before, is the emphasis on the economic and social benefits from new homes construction. There seems less weight than might previously been assumed, from issues affecting heritage, ecology and landscape.
One issue that still seems to be the ‘elephant in the room’ is Green Belt. Those two words seem to hit such political sensitivity, and promoters of Green Belt release will continue to struggle even when sustainable attributes should otherwise justify development. I note that the RTPI practice note says “we need to talk about who Green Belts are for, and about their social impact, along with their continued role in shaping and managing urban growth”. If retention of current Green Belt forces high rise and the predominant option for housing patterns, then it seems to me that we have not learnt from the worst density excesses of the 1960s.