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Latest Planning White Paper does not do enough to solve the Housing Crisis

December 23, 2020 11:33 AM

Paul Ray writes

As Liberal Democrats we know that a major priority for our country is to solve the housing crisis, by making housing properly affordable. As a councillor on Lichfield District Council, I am on the Overview & Scrutiny Committee which has reviewed the "Planning for the Future" White Paper and I have expressed serious concerns about planning.

The Government has already had to change one key measure - the housing Paul Ray Nov 2020 ()need formula which is used to provide a starting point in the process of local planning for new homes, but this is just one example of an overriding issue with the proposals; they reduce local accountability for planning decisions and thus reduce the ability for councils to shape their local areas and to bring their communities with them.

Another of the White Paper's proposals is the First Homes Scheme which will discount prices for first-time buyers, but to solve the housing crisis, social housing has to be a major part of the solution. In "desirable" areas with house prices beyond the reach of so many, the house market simply does not work on a supply and demand basis i.e build more houses for private sale and the price comes down. As we as Liberal Democrats know, the solution lies with the need for major investment in social housing.

The New National Infrastructure Levy is another very important part of the proposals.

A major reason why sufficient house building does not come forward is that the developers buy land but then delay building on it. I have suggested that the National Infrastructure Levy could be used as a tool to create some real leverage. Why can't the National Infrastructure Levy be a certain percentage if you build out within, say, 3 years of getting planning permission - with penalty increases after that? That would focus the minds of the house builders.

Finally it is so important that this levy works in reality, by delivering more funding for infrastructure. In my experience often the real issue that residents object to with new housing is not the new housing itself but the lack of additional infrastructure; schools, roads, GP surgeries and the like.

This summarises the overarching weakness of this White Paper: It does not tackle the underlying structural issues in our housing market and the need to properly fund our straining infrastructure.

Paul Ray is from the Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton-on-Trent Lib Dems and a councillor on Lichfield District Council and a PPC for the constituency.