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Councils must deliver local plans for new homes by 2017: PM

(London Post)   Councils must produce local plans for new homes in their area by 2017 – or the government will ensure, in consultation with local people, those plans are produced for them.

  • Landmark Housing and Planning Bill will help deliver government ambition of one million homes by 2020
  • Councils must produce local plans for new homes by 2017 – or government will ensure plans are produced for them
  • Government confirms measures to deliver 200,000 Starter Homes, offer 1.3 million tenants the Right to Buy and cut red tape to boost home building

While 82% of councils have published local plans – which should set out how many homes they plan to deliver over a set period – only 65% have fully adopted them, and there are still almost 20% of councils that do not have an up to date plan at all.

Find out what government schemes are available to open the doors to owning your own home at www.ownyourhome.gov.uk.

Today, the Prime Minister is making crystal clear that he expects all councils to create and deliver local plans – making sure they take action to help reach the government’s ambition of delivering 1 million homes by 2020.

The Prime Minister unveiled the proposals ahead of the publication of the Housing Bill which will help deliver 1 million homes by 2020 – a key part of the government’s pledge to deliver security, stability and opportunity to the British people.

And it comes just days after the Prime Minister and housing associations reached an historic agreement to extend the Right to Buy to 1.3 million additional tenants from as early as next year – a clear signal of the government’s plans to give all hardworking people the opportunity to unlock the door to home ownership.

The bill spells out a series of further proposals to boost homebuilding and home ownership, including:

  • new affordable Starter Homes – a new legal duty will be placed on councils to guarantee the delivery of Starter Homes on all reasonably sized new development sites, and to promote the scheme to first-time buyers in their area. The government is also announcing today that local authorities will be able to bid for a share of a £10 million Starter Homes fund – part of a £36 million package to accelerate the delivery of starter homes – by helping councils prepare brownfield sites that would otherwise not be built for starter homes.
  • automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites – to build as many homes as possible while protecting the green belt
  • planning reforms to support small builders – placing a new duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own home
  • selling off high value vacant assets – which will be reinvested in building new affordable homes

In other boosts for house building today, the PM is also announcing that a temporary rule introduced in May 2013 allowing people to convert disused offices into homes without applying for planning permission will be made a permanent change – after almost 4,000 conversions were given the go ahead between April 2014 to June this year.

And, thanks to a new website launching on Monday morning, prospective homeowners will now be able to go online to www.ownyourhome.gov.ukto see what government schemes are available to open doors for them.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

A Greater Britain must mean more families having the security and stability of owning a home of their own. My government will do everything it can to help people buy a place of their own – at the heart of this is our ambition to build 1 million new homes by 2020.

Many areas are doing this already – and this is great – but we need a national crusade to get homes built and everyone must play their part.

Councils have a key role to play in this by drawing up their own local plans for new homes by 2017. But if they fail to act, we’ll work with local people to produce a plan for them.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

Our homes don’t just shelter us, they shape us – which is why most people want to own a home of their own.

During the last 5 years we’ve brought housebuilding back from the brink, from its lowest levels since the 1920s, by reforming the planning system so we now have over 240,000 homes receiving permission.

To maintain that momentum we all need to play our part and I’m determined to ensure that local as well as central government take the steps needed to deliver the homes this country needs.

Local plans

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – which reinforced the role of local plans – was introduced in 2012 as a way of cutting back on red tape and endless planning documents to focus on what people care about: local roads, schools and homes that meet their needs.

In their plans, councils are required to produce an annual trajectory of how many homes they plan to build in their area – usually over a period of around 15 years. They must also be reviewed regularly – usually every 5 years – and give local people more of a say on where new developments go and what they look like.

And they clearly work – before March 2012 the average number of homes planned for by local authorities stood at 573 per year. Our reforms put local plans and housing delivery at the heart of the planning system. This has helped fuel the housing pipeline with those local plans published after the reforms containing on average 717 homes per year – a 25% increase.

Following today’s announcement, if councils fail to produce and bring into force an up to date plan for new homes by 2017, we will work with local people to ensure one is drawn up. Ministers will shortly be bringing forward further details of how best to intervene when councils have failed to get started on their plans.

Owning your own home

The PM is also today launching ‘Own Your Home’, his major homeownership campaign, with a brand new online portal to help people find the right home buying scheme for them.

According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 86% of people aspire to own their own home, and the new Own Your Home campaign will help direct people to the best scheme tailored made for their needs. The Own Your Home campaign will help people find their way through this content and take them to more information about the schemes that could help them open their own front door.

Reaction from the sector

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman, Home Builders Federation, said:

We welcome the government’s plans to deliver on its pledge to improve home ownership opportunities for young people. Over the past 25 years building new homes has become ever more costly and complex. New entrants have struggled to join the market, output has fallen far short of demand and the housing ladder has slipped further and further out of reach for many.

Local plans are a critical part of the planning process and it is essential they are in place if housing supply is to meet local need. Having plans in place provides certainty for both local communities and builders such that all parties understand what is to be built where and can work together to better deliver the type of developments that local people want. Ensuring Local Authorities abide by their responsibilities and put a robust plan in place will ensure more homes get built more quickly via a more constructive, less bureaucratic process.

Jeremy Blackburn, Head of Policy & Parliamentary Affairs, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Enforcing local plans and measures to speed up delivery on brownfield sites are things surveyors have long called for, and it is good to see these now coming forward in the Bill.

Some sites have been locked up for too long and these measures, coupled with a brownfield register and fund, will get them moving. While these new measures build on the National Planning Policy Framework and are welcome, the system needs to really pick up speed in order to deliver the vibrant property sector on which the success of our economy depends.

The real objective here is meeting the housing challenge – or crusade as the Prime Minister put it – where we need to build across all tenures. Dispute resolution for S106 agreements will help unlock many schemes stuck in negotiation, and we look forward to working with government to implement this service. We must combine this with wider measures to increase the supply of affordable and rented properties via councils and housing associations.

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, said:

We see the Housing Bill as one of the most important Bills before Parliament, in laying the foundations for so much of the government’s other agendas. In particular, we are pleased to see the extension of the office to residential permitted development rights, and valid exemptions to this.

Measures to ensure local plans be put in place by 2017 will bring much needed certainty for potential investors and provide a catalyst for growth. Our members focus on brownfield opportunities and so measures that bring more land forward will also be warmly supported.

We support the government’s vision for starter homes and the intention to give first time buyers a step up. We are also squarely behind the government’s efforts to raise standards in the private rented sector, which goes to the heart of our own Build-to-Rent initiative.

Chris Grigg, CEO of British Land

I welcome the government’s renewed commitment to making a real impact on increasing the rate at which we build the new homes we need where we need them. In particular, we know that, without up to date local plans and the planned release of brownfield sites, community support for what is needed will not be forthcoming.

Jeff Fairburn, CEO Persimmon Homes

We have continually supported government policy outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and welcome all measures which seek to improve the operation of the planning system in order to deliver the homes the country needs, in the places they are needed where people want to live.

The NPPF has taken time to bed in however its policies are working, barriers to sustainable development are being removed and housing output is beginning to increase. A strong locally led plan based system is key to this and the measures to be enacted in the Bill to require all areas to have a plan by 2017 are welcomed. It is hoped that devolution will speed up this process in our urban areas where much of the need is focussed.

We must continue to use land efficiently, do what we can to bring brownfield sites forward but accept that they cannot alone meet the country’s housing needs. Understanding and recording the capacity of brownfield land and doing all that can be done to simplify the process of gaining suitable planning approval is crucial if the most is to be made of this resource.

We must explore the different types and tenures of housing that can be delivered and work hard give everyone the chance to own their own home. The initiatives under the Bill are welcomed and particularly the drive towards ensuring an increase in the number of starter homes via changes to the definition of affordable housing.

Homebuilding is and can continue to be a key driver of the economy and the major builders have a responsibility to deliver. We will be working hard alongside government and local authorities to make this happen.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation

Housing associations have always been committed to helping their tenants get on in life, whether that’s finding a job, providing a high quality affordable home or getting a foot on the housing ladder. That’s why we are pleased to be able to give our tenants the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of homeownership, and to be able to do it in a way which allows housing associations to continue boosting housing supply.

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