The government is to consult on a proposal to take allocated sites out of local plans where ‘there is no prospect’ of a planning application being made for their intended use.

The move, billed as “strengthening policy”, is included in a suite of measures announced in today’s Autumn Budget aimed at speeding up delivery of new homes against an increased target of creating 300,000 net additional units per annum by the mid 2020s.

Consultation is also promised on a new policy whereby local authorities would be expected to grant housing permissions for land outside development plans on condition that a “high proportion” of the homes built are offered for discounted sale for first time buyers or for affordable rent.

Budget documents say that this policy will not apply to green belt areas, in line with the government’s restated overall commitment to “maintain existing protections” for green belt land.

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget also indicated that the government will “shortly activate” powers enabling ministers to direct local planning authorities to produce joint statutory plans and undertake an assessment of where they should be used.

This follows communities secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement last week that he intends to take over plan-making powers from 15 authorities deemed to have failed to put an up-to-date plan in place.

The Budget statement heralds further consultation on measures to increase housing density in urban areas “to ensure that our brownfield and scarce urban land is used as efficiently as possible”.

Measures under consideration, the document explains, include:

• Minimum densities for housing development in city centres and around transport hubs, with greater support for the use of compulsory purchase powers to assemble sites;
• Policy changes to support the conversion of empty space above high street shops;
• Policy changes to make it easier to convert retail and employment land into housing;
• Permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.

The statement says: “The cost of housing near the most productive centres of employment has become a barrier to productivity growth. High house prices can prevent people from living near the best job opportunities for them, limiting the productivity of companies that might have employed them.”

Hammond said latest figures show that housing supply has increased from 137,000 in 2010 to 217,000 last year. “That is a remarkable achievement. But we need to do better still if we are to see affordability improve,” he said.

“If we don’t increase supply of land for new homes, more money will inflate prices and make matters worse. We may generate planning permissions but we will not turn them into homes. Solving this challenge will require money, planning reform and intervention.”

Source: Bryan Johnston, Planning Resource, 22 November 2017

Local Comment:  In Birkenhead, the Mollington Link site was allocated for commercial uses 17 years ago.  On 1 February 2018, Wirral Council may well be stripped of its plan-making powers by the Government.  What could this mean for the Mollington Link site?  Two outline application were granted for this land but both have now expired, with no new application having come forward this year.  This is the sort of site that could be de-allocated and be brought forward for housing development, which has always been the Forum’s preference.  The Forum looks forward to working with the Homes & Communities Agency, the Government and Wirral Council to bring this site forward for affordable, community-led housing development. – Philip Barton

Mollington Link site, central Birkenhead (shaded green).
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