News from 2013, see also more commentsfrom residents
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The planning minister Nick Boles has defended local plan housing targets in a Westminster debate that saw backbench MPs rage over 'arbitrary' figures for almost 4 hours.
23 Government Back-Bench MPs attended a debate in which Nick Herbert (Con) stated: "There are two words in the phrase “sustainable development”; it is imperative that proper weight be attached to the first of them. Many in communities in my constituency are concerned that inadequate consideration is given to the availability of infrastructure to support development proposals. We have congested roads, over-subscribed schools, serious flooding issues and countryside that is valued and in short supply."
Rebecca Harris (Con) added: "We should change what we are doing and target smaller and less popular sites that have local owners, who will use local builders and local estate agents. We would then have a much more popular local plan for residents, and we would not have the big household-name developers acquiring 600-unit sites where, if they got around to building houses on them, it would not be in the time frame we want, and would market them out of town and in London. Local estate agents would not get a look-in, and the houses would not go to local people."
Damian Hinds (Con) suggested "In some places, the speculative applications and pre-application interest shown already exceed the targets in the areas and villages concerned for the period until 2028, and in my constituency that is especially true in Four Marks, the parish of Medstead, Alton and Liphook. There has also been significant interest in Petersfield, where a neighbourhood plan is in development; we expect the referendum on that next year. I suggest to the Minister that where a council is making proactive efforts, once the number of houses called for in the interim housing statement—in our case—has been reached in a particular area, it ought to be possible to say, “No more.”
Nick Boles' response was "It is not unreasonable, however, for the Government to tell an authority, which is representing the people and has a duty to serve them, “Work out what’s needed, and make plans to provide it.” That is what we do with schools. We do not tell local authorities, “You can provide as many school places as you feel like”; we say, “Provide as many school places as are needed.” We do not tell the NHS, “Provide as many GPs as you feel you can afford right now”; we say, “Work out how many GPs are needed.” The same is true of housing sites: we tell local authorities, “Work out how many houses will be needed in your area over the next 15 years, and then make plans to provide them.”
Martin Horwood (LD) responded to say "My constituents in places such as Leckhampton and Hatherley do not understand this: the econometric model is based not so much on need as on demand, which in areas such as mine—and St Albans and many other constituencies—is practically insatiable, so we will still have high house prices that are unaffordable for many first-time buyers in places such as Cheltenham, because we have good schools and shops, as well as a good local environment and good employment levels. If such areas are simply consigned to endless development, we will lose something very precious to local people and to the environment. The problem with the Minister’s scenario is that the issue is not about trying to stop all development—nobody has said that—but about wanting local people to be able to make some difference and have some say.
Nick Boles also stated "..we have attempted to make it clear that planning authorities can very reasonably say, “Yes, we’ll pass this planning application, yes, we will consent, but it can only go ahead and be built out once that infrastructure has been put in place.” I believe that the use of conditions is the right way to do it, as well as the plan making that makes the broader plans for infrastructure."
He continued "Very specifically, development must be sustainable, and sustainable in many ways. Infrastructure is one of the ways in which it needs to be sustainable. However—the however is quite important—to say that the current infrastructure is insufficient to support a level of development that otherwise would be “sustainable” in other senses of the word is not quite enough, because someone has to be able to say that it is incapable of being made sufficient to support that level of development; in other words, that the local authority either could not bring the financial resources together or could not physically and geographically make arrangements to make that development sustainable. Just to say, “The road is too narrow; we can’t do anything more there,” is not quite enough. To say, “The road is too narrow and can never be widened, because it’s between two ancient forests that have the highest status,” could be sufficient and that tends to be where the debates take place."
Recommendation 1: Local and national politicians and campaigning groups as well as planners need to make the case for large scale housing schemes by emphasising the consequences for current and future generations of failing to build enough houses, and the opportunities represented by large scale schemes to delivery quality healthy communities.
Recommendation 2: Local councils, practitioners and developers need to do more to ensure that community engagement reaches a wider cross section of the community, including potential future residents.
Recommendation 3: Local authorities and developers should ensure that the pre-application engagement process and local plan consultation are of a high standard, which means that they should be comprehensive, straightforward, accessible and represent good value for money.
Recommendation 4: There needs to be public access to information on who owns land and who owns options on land.
Recommendation 5: Local authorities should take a larger role in land assembly, for example by the use of existing powers of compulsory purchase.
Recommendation 6: Share risks around potential future land uplift in land values more evenly between local authority, developer and landowner so as to bring sites to market now.
Recommendation 7: Government departments and agencies should be required to dispose of their surplus land holdings in a way which takes account of the wider community value rather than maximising the capital receipt, and to do so with alacrity.
Recommendation 8: In view of the longer lead-in times involved, central government should incentivise large scale housing schemes, for example, through finance mechanisms or national planning policy.
Recommendation 9: Link together infrastructure expenditure, policies and planning with policies and planning for housing in order to unlock potential sites, for example through budgetary processes or guarantees against future income streams.
Recommendation 10: Local authorities should be empowered and encouraged to use existing or innovative funding solutions and utilise central government support through existing funding streams or policies. This could involve local infrastructure funding or forms of devolved pooled resources.
Recommendation 11: Local authorities, infrastructure providers and government agencies should develop means to pool departmental and European resources in order to deliver the infrastructure which supports housing schemes.
Recommendation 12: Where funding isn’t available, central government should consider underwriting a certain proportion of the site investment.
Recommendation 13: Where required, local authorities and agencies should be given much greater incentives to work collaboratively across borders to strategically plan for housing and infrastructure sites.
Recommendation 14: Leaders, Chief Executives and chief planning officers of local authorities need to use planners’ skills more broadly in the design and delivery of corporate and LEP plans for growth.
Recommendation 15: Governments need to explore how, where they are of national significance, proposed major housing developments should be acknowledged nationally and what special delivery processes may assist their delivery.