On his recent tour of Yorkshire, RTPI President Phil Williams joined a selection of Yorkshire based housebuilders, developers, consultants and legal representatives at a round table at our Leeds office. The round table was an opportunity for directors Claire Kent and Stuart Natkus to give an overview of local plans and the current situation on housing delivery in the region. It was also the opportunity to hear the views of the RTPI and the sector.
It began with a general overview of local planning covering the acute shortage of market and affordable housing in the region, and a comparison of delivery amongst local authorities within the region.
“Despite a shortage, there are still huge opportunities within these areas, as highlighted in recent research undertaken by Barton Willmore, but what are the barriers, how can we improve delivery and increase regeneration?,” said Claire.
Stuart pointed out that many local plans dating back to the late 1990/2000’s’s are only just being reviewed and in some instances have not been updated since. “The lack of up-to-date plans impose constraints to delivery introduced 10-20 years ago, with12 out of the 19 local authorities constrained by the Green Belt. This undoubtedly is a big issue affecting housing delivery.” Claire went on to explain that other factors causing delays to plan making affected by include economic factors and lack of resources within local plan departments. “Frustratingly, plan making is not seen as a priority in some areas and there is also the threat of legal challenges that create a huge stumbling block.”
Phil Williams followed: “The new Minister needs to work with house builders and investors and there needs to be a fresh approach to solve the housing crisis. There clearly is a need to readdress the value of planning and look at a revised system to help deliver solutions, the reality is we need to roll our sleeves up.
“A synergy between planner, politician and people is required and it will take a brave politician with brave decision making to break out of traditional thinking,” he added.
The discussion around the table continued on a theme of communication with communities, to get to a point where communities understand what plans are. How do we engage them and what are the solutions? Everyone agreed that the general public only come in to contact with planning when there’s conflict, education is needed so they’re not baffled by planning or have misunderstandings of the Green Belt. It was noted that we are in the age of the sound bite and none more so than in planning, where statistics and quotes out of context are consistently quoted.
Other questions asked were, does the Housing and Planning Act take us further with housing delivery? Are the RTPI doing enough? Phil Williams said: “It should be a collective responsibility and not just up to local authorities, what can institutions like the Home Builders Federation bring to the table?”
On a positive note our senior partner, Mark Sitch, reminded the table that there has been some great initiatives brought about by lobbying on place-making, we mustn’t forget the garden cities movement with a drive from industry working on urban extensions and new settlements.
In summary it was agreed that the Housing and Planning Act isn’t going to make a great deal of difference and the Yorkshire region is no different from other areas of the country. We all need to shout about our success and fight back with a positive message. Explain what’s in it for the community and change the public’s way of thinking.
The general consensus was that communication, collaboration, education is key and that’s just the start.
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