Land News

Nevermind the Brownfield

Lawson Fairbank 25th July, 2005

Land is now at such a premium that local authorities in areas of high housing demand, could be forced to make land available, regardless of the environmental impact.

ODPM, John Prescott, pressed forward with his proposed shake up of the planning system to provide more homes and quash the current undersupply of housing pushing houses beyond the reaches of first time buyers and key workers.

The document, Planning for housing Provision sets out to make the planning system more flexible, and able to respond quickly to demand through swift reclassification of land.

John Prescott was proud to boast of the UK's current achievements:

"It's little wonder that many Americans view our planning system with envy - because we have much stronger tools of intervention to balance environmental, economic and social considerations in the interests of the whole community. "

The Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that there was still room for improvement:

"For decades, this country has built too few homes, with the result that too many people on moderate incomes can't afford a home,"

"Today's proposals will mean the planning system can respond faster to the housing market and local needs, so that more homes can be built where they're needed."

Critics of the proposed changes, such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England are concerned that the countryside will be concreted in no time. Under current planning regulations, local authority planning bodies have to consider a number of factors when deciding on new developments such as environmental impact and social need.

Housing would be given far greater weight than all other considerations and that, for the first time, land-allocation will be linked to house prices so that, in areas of high price and high demand, developers will be able to demand that land be released for development.

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the CPRE said: "These proposals amount to environmental vandalism. They risk unleashing a tidal wave of urban sprawl on our countryside and at the same time condemning many of our most deprived communities to continuing urban decay."

Preference will still be given to brownfield land under the new proposals, but, other sites will have to be made available if there is insufficient supply.

Both CPRE and Friends of the Earth dismiss claims of 'nimbyism' and recognise that there is a need for affordable housing, but both point out that there is no mention whatsoever of social housing in the new proposals and that private housing does not necessarily mean affordable.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors also doubted the proposals ability to increase affordable housing. It claims that linking house prices with the amounts of land released would be very complex and unlikely to lead to improvements in affordability.

The consultation runs until September 2005.

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