For a long time now we at CPRE have been taking issue with the government’s oft repeated maxim that releasing more land for housing will result in more homes being built.
Getting houses built
The problem, we argue, is not that house-builders don’t have enough land to build on: they have more than enough (see, for example, our Housing Foresight Paper Getting Houses Built or this report in The Guardian). The problem is that it is not in volume housebuilders’ interests to build houses quickly enough to meet demand (or even need), however many planning permissions are granted.
If the nation is to resolve its housing crisis, it needs to take positive action to ensure that those sites that do have planning permission actually get developed, rather than continuing to lie idle. In particular, this applies to the brownfield sites that could provide almost 1 million new homes, 40% of which already have planning permission.
So, CPRE very much welcomes today’s announcement from the Prime Minister that the government will be “rolling its sleeves up and directly getting homes built” on five of those sites, in doing so making the best of the contribution that can be made by smaller housebuilders, in line with the recommendations of our Housing Foresight Paper Increasing Diversity in the House Building Sector.
The five sites are:
- Connaught Barracks, Dover (500 homes)
- Northstowe, Cambridgeshire (new town including 10,000 homes)
- Lower Graylingwell, Chichester (160 homes)
- Daedelus Waterfront, Gosport (249 homes plus commercial)
- Old Oak Common, London (24,000 homes)
However, while we support the principle of getting development moving on these sites, it is not clear from the PM’s announcement how localism fits into this model of direct commissioning by central Government.
If this is to be part of a major programme of housebuilding, as presaged in the Budget last March, then the government will need carefully to consider how it is going to account for the needs and aspirations of local people to avoid imposing unwanted development on communities from the top down. We would suggest that future projects for direct commissioning should be focused on stalled brownfield sites that benefit from the support of a neighbourhood plan or a development brief approved by the local community.
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