At the Conservative party conference the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, and the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a fresh package of measures aimed at addressing the national shortage of new homes. The ambition is to deliver more than 25,000 new homes this Parliament and up to 225,000 ‘in the longer term’.
Perhaps the most striking theme running the latest thinking emanating from government is the acknowledgement that the failure to deliver cannot be entirely the fault of the planning system. Whilst there are suggested planning policy amendments in the mix, the statement includes both fiscal and practical measures which are aimed at unlocking stalled sites and accelerating build rates on sites that are already consented. The government clearly wishes to encourage alternative more ‘fleet of foot’ models of housing delivery in its announcement of a £3 billion Home Building Fund to provide loans for SME builders, custom builders, offsite construction and essential infrastructure. In addition, an ‘Accelerated Construction’ programme, using public land and £2 billion of investment to encourage new developers and different models of construction is aimed at doubling the build rate of ‘traditional’ house builders. Further planning policy reforms are also referred to – although at first blush these seem to echo the suggested amendments to the NPPF that were consulted on earlier in the year (for example increased housing density around transport hubs and a ‘de facto’ brownfield first policy). Similarly, the role of land identified in brownfield registers to deliver housing is emphasised and the notion of building on existing office to residential permitted development rights is mooted. One earlier policy thread that is conspicuous by its absence is the promotion of starter homes – perhaps signaling that the new regime is less wedded to the home-ownership model and is prepared to countenance other forms of tenure in the cause of accelerating delivery.
Overall, the approach appears to be to select and develop existing ideas rather than to introduce yet another raft of measures aimed at ‘fixing’ a ’broken’ planning system – a change in emphasis that will be welcomed by many planning practitioners who will be happy to see the dust settle on recent reforms.