Robert Jenricks vast overhaul of the planning system has hit a further setback after the Government quietly u-turned on plans to scrap the duty on developers to build affordable housing on small sites.
There has been fierce criticism. In an open letter issued shortly after the Prime Minister’s build, build, build speech, the chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Victoria Hills, voiced concern about the approach that the white paper was expected to take and the “planner bashing rhetoric” and argued that sweeping away the planning system was not the right response. The President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Alan Jones, agreed that the planning system needed to be reformed but branded the white paper’s proposals as “shameful”.
FOSH and other members of the South Devon Alliance had a number of Zoom meetings with Anthony Mangnall MP to make clear their opposition to many of the Governments planning proposals. Almost every Local Authority in England also made their concerns known about the ‘Planning For The Future’ White Paper.
There have already been several waves of planning policy change (including on change of use and permitted development rights (PDRs)) during the Covid-19 pandemic, with more to come.
Here is the FOSH consultation response to the original proposals.
Now the Government has quietly u-turned on plans to scrap the duty on developers to build affordable housing on small sites.
Last summer, the Housing Secretary announced a string of reforms to the current planning system including proposals to abolish the requirement for housebuilders to deliver affordable housing on sites of up to 50 homes.
Mr Jenrick believed the move, along with a raft of other changes to the planning rules, would dramatically speed up housebuilding in England by “cutting red tape but not standards”.
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government had raised the prospect of ditching what is known as the “small sites cap” for housing developments smaller than 50 units, prompting outrage from housing associations and campaign groups.
But the department has now rowed back on the plans following a consultation, slipping out its decision via an update on its website.
“We have carefully considered the consultation feedback and the situation in the housing market,” the DCLG states. “On balance, we do not consider this measure to be necessary at this stage, particularly in light of the broader way in which the sector has responded to the challenges of the pandemic.”
The u-turn is the second to hit the Cabinet minister’s reforms in less than six months after he was forced into another embarrassing climbdown on changes to the housing algorithm used to allocate where new homes should be built.
The changes formed a central pillar of the Conservative Government’s manifesto commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
However, the proposals sparked a full-blown rebellion from Tory backbenchers, who attacked the “mutant algorithm” that would have seen house building requirements rise by as much as 200 per cent in certain Conservative heartlands.
Campaigners have welcomed the latest about turn from Mr Jenrick, with the countryside charity CPRE calculating the decision could result in around 6,000 new affordable homes being built each year.
Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, said it was a “massive relief” but warned too many key workers were still unable to afford to get on to the housing ladder, particularly in rural communities.
“Although welcome, this announcement only makes sure the situation doesn’t get significantly worse – more action must be taken to provide adequate numbers of genuinely affordable homes,” he said.
For more about the Planning For The Future White Paper and the remaining Government proposals see:
Planning For The Future briefing
Guide to the planning consultation
Calculating future housing needs
Changes to the current planning system
Algorithm at the centre of planning reforms!
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