We've had the Housing White Paper, but what comes next and how can we ensure housing policy will keep our countryside protected?
Housing Minister Gavin Barwell speaks at CPRE Annual Lecture
The 2017 CPRE Annual Lecture was given by Housing Minister Gavin Barwell on Monday 20 February 2017 in London. The Minister’s speech was be followed by responses from Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Chief Executive Kate Henderson, Shelter UK Head of Policy Toby Lloyd and CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spiers, all before a Q&A session.
The event was broadcast on Facebook Live and the video is now available below. In addition, we were live tweeting on the day using the hashtag #CPRELecture. Also below you will find highlights from the Housing Minister's speech, which is available in full on gov.uk.
Highlights from the Minister's speech
It’s been several years since a government housing or planning minister spoke at this conference.
But throughout that period the links between the CPRE and my department have remained strong - and rightly so.
We’ve not only listened to your input, we’ve taken it on board.
Any honest assessment of the housing white paper will quickly spot the marks of your influence - whether it’s the protection of the green belt, our opposition to speculative development or our insistence on community involvement in planning and design.
Here in London the average home made its owner £22 an hour during the working week in 2015 - considerably more than what average Londoner was earning. Stop and think what will happen to wealth inequality in our society if we allow it to continue.
And this isn’t just a London or Home Counties problem. Since 1997 the ratio of average house prices to average earnings has more than doubled in places as diverse as Boston in Lincolnshire, Lancaster and Manchester.
That may sound like great news if you already own a property, but for those who don’t it means the dream of owning a home isn’t just distant - it’s getting further and further away.
According to the latest English Housing Survey, 1.5 million people are sharing properties when they wanted to have a home of their own.
The average couple living in the private rented sector is now paying half their disposable income to their landlord, making it nigh on impossible to save for a deposit.
High demand couple with low supply has also created opportunities for exploitation: unfair terms in leases, unreasonable letting agents’ fees and landlords letting out dangerous, overcrowded properties.
As a government we can - and will - provide help right now to those struggling in our broken housing market, but in the long term the only way to solve these problems is to build enough homes.
To meet both future and pent-up need, independent estimates suggest we need to deliver somewhere between 225,000 and 275,000 homes every year.
That may sound simple enough, but it’s a goal that has proved elusive for every government since the 1970s.
We are not prepared to let that record continue and that’s why we published a white paper, Fixing our broken housing market, which resets housing policy, switching from demand-side interventions to a focus on increasing supply.
We need to make sure we’re planning for the right number of homes in the right parts of the country.
Once developments have got planning permission, we need to make sure they are built out quickly.
And we need to diversify the market so that we’re not so dependent on a small number of large developers to do that building.
There are a number of problems with our planning system at the moment.
Some councils still haven’t produced a plan. In those areas, development is happening thanks to speculative applications, which are often resisted by local residents. It’s slow, expensive and denies communities the chance to agree where they would like to see development go.
Other councils produced a plan years ago, but it is now hopelessly out-of-date.
Others still have an up-to-date plan, but have ducked the tough choices that need to be made by failing to be honest about the level of housing need in their area.
We can no longer tolerate this patchy performance.
So we’ll be insisting that every area is covered by a plan, which must be reviewed at least every 5 years. And we’ll be consulting on a new way for councils to assess housing need, which we’ll strongly incentivise councils to use, so that these plans start from an honest assessment of how much housing is required in their area.
Alongside greater ability for local communities to influence design, we’re also introducing new measures to help councils identify appropriate sites for development.
In all but the most exceptional circumstances that will exclude the green belt.
Contrary to a lot of press speculation beforehand, the white paper doesn’t weaken protections for the green belt one jot. Indeed, it actually increases protection for ancient woodlands and veteran trees, something I am sure the CPRE welcomes.
Some greenfield land will be required for new homes, but our focus is on developing brownfield land - specifically in those parts of the country where additional homes are urgently required.
We’ll amend the National Planning Policy Framework to increase the take-up of brownfield sites suitable for homes, prevent low density developments where there is a clearly a shortage of land and support proposals for Starter Homes on employment land that has been vacant or unviable for 5 years.
These are merely the latest steps to bring brownfield land back into use.
Together with the Mayor we’ve designated 57 brownfield housing zones around the country for up to 77,000 new homes.
The £3 billion Home Building Fund will also support development on brownfield land, as will the £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.
We’ve legislated for the introduction of Brownfield Registers so developers of all sizes can easily find suitable sites.
And permission in principle for brownfield sites will provide a new route to planning permission that gives up-front certainty for developers.
We’ve listened to all the things developers say slow them down - viability assessments, section 106 agreements, mis-use of pre-commencement conditions and infrastructure delays - and we’re taking action to deal with all of them.
Having addressed all their concerns, we’re entitled to expect developers to build out quicker.
And if they don’t we’re giving councils new powers - shorter timescales for implementing permissions; more streamlined completion notice procedures; and new guidance encouraging more active use of compulsory purchase powers at stalled housing sites.
And having given councils new powers they’ve been asking for, we’ll be introducing a new Housing Delivery Test to hold them to account if they don’t ensure the homes they’ve planned for are actually built.
Small independent builders were decimated in the 2008 recession and most have never come back, while new companies find it very difficult to enter the market.
It means 60% of new private homes are built by just 10 companies, using methods that haven’t changed much for the past century.
A lack of competition is never good for innovation, something our housing market is in desperate need of.
So we will make it easier for small and medium-sized builders to compete and encourage innovation.
That means access to finance for small and medium-sized builders - and those using innovative methods of construction, such as off-site manufacturing - through programmes such as the £3 billion Home Building Fund. And it means councils ensuring they are making smaller sites available in their local plans.
We recognise that your concern for the preservation of the English landscape is shared by millions of people across our country. Indeed as a government - we share it too.
We have listened to you on housing and planning issues and we’re implementing many of your ideas, but in return we want your help.
I’m delighted that your leadership clearly recognise the urgent requirement to fix the broken housing market. Now I want those words to be matched with practical, positive action.
About the speakers
Housing Minister Gavin Barwell
Gavin Barwell was appointed Minister of State for Housing, Planning and Minister for London at the Department for Communities and Local Government on 17 July 2016. He was elected Conservative MP for Croydon Central in May 2010.
The Minister previously served as Government Whip, Comptroller of HM Household, from May 2015 until July 2016, Lord Commissioner, Whip, from July 2014 until May 2015 and as Assistant Whip from October 2013 until July 2014.
Mr Barwell was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, from 2012 to 2013 and PPS to the Minister of State for Decentralisation and Planning Policy, Greg Clark, from 2011 to 2012.
He’s lived in Croydon virtually his whole life, growing up in Shirley and going to Trinity School on a full scholarship. He was the first person in his family to go to university, studying Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Kate Henderson
Kate Henderson is Chief Executive of the TCPA where she leads the Association's efforts to shape and advocate planning policies that put social justice and the environment at the heart of the debate.
Over the past decade Kate has raised the TCPA's profile through a range of high profile campaigns, research projects and policy initiatives, most notably around garden cities, affordable housing, poverty and climate change. She has been involved in a number of government panels and independent commissions including the independent Lyons Housing Review.
Kate is a visiting professor at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London and a member of the Board of the International Federation of Housing and Planning. She is co-author of two books with her colleague Hugh Ellis.
Shelter UK Head of Policy Toby Lloyd
Toby Lloyd has worked in housing policy across the public, private and voluntary sectors for over ten years. He joined Shelter as Head of Policy in 2011, and led Shelter’s proposal for new garden city that was the runner-up for the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014.
He is now Head of Housing Development. Previously he led Navigant Consulting’s policy and strategy division, where he advised local and national government and the private sector on housing, planning and regeneration.
He has been a senior policy manager for the Greater London Authority, a project manager for the London Rebuilding Society, and taught financial history at the LSE. His book, Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing, will be published in February 2017.