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Wide Ranging and Radical Housing Bill Published

by Paul Addison on October 19, 2015 No comments

The Government’s long awaited Housing Bill has now been published and it seeks to transform the planning system to deliver more housing.

Among the provisions in this wide-ranging bill is the statutory framework for the Government’s ‘Starter Homes’ scheme which includes a new legal duty to be placed on councils to guarantee the provision of 200,000 starter homes on all reasonably sized new development sites. These will be offered to first-time buyers at a 20 per cent discount on market price.

Another key measure provides ministers with powers to intervene to ensure that all councils have local plans in place by 2017.

In addition, the legislation introduces the requirement for local authorities to keep registers of brownfield land, an extension of the right-to-buy discount to some housing association tenants and a duty on local authorities to sell their most expensive vacant homes.

The bill also provides for automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites and introduces planning reforms to support small builders by placing a new duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own home.

Furthermore, the legislation includes measures to simplify and speed-up neighbourhood planning, reform the Compulsory Purchase Order regime, extend the use of the planning performance regime to smaller planning applications and provide the Mayor of London with additional planning and housing powers.

The Government had stated that they will intervene if Councils fail to have an adopted plan in place by 2017. In this respect, the Bill’s provisions will amend section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which will dramatically increase the scope of the Secretary of State’s existing default intervention power in the local plan making process.  It is expected that the Government will use these powers to step in if plans are not in place.

Also stipulated is a new requirement that “prescribed financial benefits which might accrue to the local area as a result of granting planning permission” are recorded in reports by planning committees and the planning authority itself.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said:

Britain’s brownfields sites have been locked for far too long, and we are pleased to see that measures are being put in place to release their potential and get our country building. Enforcing local plans and speeding up delivery on brownfield sites are measures chartered surveyors have long campaigned for, and it is good to see these coming forward in the bill. The mediation between councils and developers regarding section 106 agreements is blocking or slowing down many schemes and is holding up the granting of planning permission. Dispute resolution for these agreements will contribute to the unlocking of many schemes stuck in negotiation. We must combine this with the wider measures, including a comprehensive brownfield map that includes privately owned brownfield land, to increase the supply of affordable and rented properties via councils and housing associations.”

Interestingly, the Notes to the Bill state that the Secretary of State will also be allowed to grant consent for housing “where there is no functional link but there is a close geographical link between the housing and the infrastructure project”.  This could further pave the way for in-fill where bypasses or other relief roads have been put in place.

In a separate but related move the Government has announced that local authorities will be able to bid for a share of a £10m Starter Homes fund (part of a £36m package to accelerate the delivery of starter homes) by helping councils prepare brownfield sites that would otherwise not be built on for starter homes.

Will the pace of approvals and development take a step change? Could the local landscape change as land becomes unlocked?

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Paul AddisonWide Ranging and Radical Housing Bill Published

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