Back in February the Tories unveiled their planning green paper. It stated that they wanted to give environmental / physical planning powers back to the local areas.
The previous planning system (since 1990) was based on the preparation of Local Plans, but the most contentious issue of how many houses should be built in a local area were decided by the Region.
The Regional decisions on housing numbers were previously ‘forced’ on the local councils, which the Tories wanted to end.
One of the first things Eric Pickles (the new Secretary of State) did was to revoke the Regional Spatial Strategies, thus freeing local authorities of the vast housing numbers being forced on them. However, without these numbers, very few local authorities want to build more houses, because it generally upsets their electorate with the fear of increased traffic, loss of countryside and so on.
Pickles announced that in order to encourage local councils to permit new building, they would be offered a payment of 6 years council tax back to the council for every new house they build. But the housebuilders federation say that this is not working at all.
We are told that houseprices are so high, and increase so rapidly simply because the supply falls so far behind demand, and the gap is steadily increasing. Whilst it’s easy in the short term to reject housing in our local areas, I fear for the vast increases in house prices that our younger generation are likely to have, because we fail to build.
Interestingly, I noticed that Grant Shapps twittered on AUg 19th that ‘New house building is up 13% as communities start to appreciate ‘New Homes Bonus’ means sustainable building makes sense’. What nonsense! It takes the creaking planning system months to deliver new permissions, and they take months to implement. No-one even knows exactly how the proposed ‘new homes bonus’ will actually work yet.
I don’t disagree with the problems associated with the ‘top-down’ housing numbers approach, but what does rile me is the Tories line that Labour has failed to deliver homes, and they will do better. It’s taken years to get the regional strategies in place, planning for growth in the most sustainable way. Then the Tories simply ditch the whole strategy, and replace it with … incentives that interest no-one.