Home is Where the House is: UK government unveils plans to shake up housing planning system
August 17, 2020
2 min read
What's going on here?
The details of Boris Johnson’s “New Deal for Britain” have recently been announced with plans to produce around 45,000 new homes. The Planning for the Future project was announced as a part of Rishi Sunak’s £600bn budget for capital projects over the coming 5 years.
What does this mean?
As part of the Planning for the Future scheme the government has made drastic changes to current planning laws in the UK with zonal systems being implemented. The local council will be given the task of designating land as areas for “growth”, “renewal” or “protection” with automatic planning permission being granted to those areas of growth; facilitating accelerated construction of hospitals and new homes.
Furthermore, the government has granted £360m to the Mayoral Combined Authority areas with a further £8m designated to speed up the building of any new homes on brownfield sites. The business and energy departments plan to fund around two-thirds of the costs of green home improvements for over 600,000 homes and low income households can receive vouchers covering 100% of the costs. Additional support will see new build homes being offered at a 30% discount to local people, key workers and first-time buyers, but it is unclear how this will be funded.
What's the big picture effect?
The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick said that the unveiling of the Planning for the Future scheme is “laying the foundations for a green economic recovery”. However, Jenrick has recently come under fire and the Labour party has criticized him for granting power to developers who often donate to the Conservative party. This apparent bias was made clear in court following controversy with developer Richard Desmond.
Previously, planning applications were assessed against a local plan and on a case-by-case basis with permission decided by a committee of local councillors. However, this new system entirely discards this process. Consequently, the opportunity for input from the public and enforcement of democratic accountability has been greatly reduced.
Furthermore, the provision of affordable housing could be limited as developers of smaller sites will be exempted from payments to local infrastructure (these fees are known as Section 106 payments); thus, there will not be an obligation to provide affordable housing on smaller sites. Darren Rodwell, executive member for housing and planning at London Councils (the body which represents London’s boroughs and the City of London) stated, “London is suffering the most severe homelessness crisis in this country and the chronic shortage of affordable housing is at the heart of this.” It is likely that this scheme will only inflame the current housing situation across the country and will make it harder for those most negatively affected by the pandemic to find affordable housing. Essentially, the government has prioritised developers’ interests over that of the disadvantaged population.
A detailed zonal code is imperative but it is unclear how the government will fund the project or when it will be completed. Will Boris be able to overcome the cries of ‘NIMBYism’ and negative press?
Report written by Sophie Hardava
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