Mark Sitch, senior partner at Barton Willmore, comments: Expectations around this White Paper were astronomically high because of the sheer scale of the housing crisis facing the country. Planning for more new homes in the right locations is stating the obvious, but a multi-pronged approach – not least across all tenures, all manner of construction, and all sizes of house builders – is essential if we’re to make real inroads in to addressing the problem.
Much of the attention in the White Paper points to the failures of the planning system and focuses upon the inherent political difficulties of planning for substantially higher levels of housing - a fundamental element of this being the failure to have up to date local plans in place that meet the full identified housing need in the area.
Whilst some of the proposed changes to national policy, mechanisms and sources of funding to support new housing development are welcomed, many of these changes could be expected to be met by local opposition. Despite indications prior to the White Paper's release that planning would be de-politicised there are very clear indications within the Paper itself that the political difficulties of talking about boosting significantly housing nationally have delayed its publication and its content revised as result.
Alongside the changes to planning for more housing, the White Paper, as the title suggests, also focuses on the role of the market. It was clear prior to its release that the Government was to focus on land banking - which they consider takes place - but usefully the paper sets out measures to streamline the process from planning to building out to development.
For councils, it seems this White Paper is as much stick as carrot, piling the pressure on to jumpstart housing delivery. The question is will the Secretary of State start intervening where the planning system is failing entirely?
The effectiveness of much of this will depend upon the detail of the very many areas of further policy that the Government promises to consult on shortly, but perhaps most importantly the political will nationally and locally to avoid bucking difficult decisions. Every time the Secretary of State or leader of a council allows an area to avoid playing its part in accommodating much needed new housing, any hope of solving the housing crisis is undermined.
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