Government bets on planning shake-up to spur housebuilding

22 July 2015, Blog

The publication of the Government’s Productivity Plan earlier this month included a key initiative to “kick start” housebuilding, with George Osborne identifying it as “the challenge of our lifetime”. It is a challenge to solve the housing crisis, and the Chancellor has made it clear that he is willing to force local communities to build homes even if they are opposed to it.

Among the proposals is fast-track and automatic planning permission for brownfield land under a new ‘zonal system’. It is an idea closely floated by Labour mayoral candidate Tessa Jowell in her pledge for a London housing agency emulating Transport for London. In fact she plans to use redundant land owned by TfL to develop housing on. But critics argue there is not enough brownfield land to meet housing needs – would a further and wider urban sprawl on the greenbelt within and beyond the M25 be necessary? Osborne would surely be dragged into battle to ‘force’ the forces of Nimbyism into allowing development should this be the case.

In order to speed up the planning application process, the plan also includes a commitment to “legislate to allow major infrastructure projects with an element of housing to apply through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Regime (NSIP)”.

Additionally, developers who want to extend buildings to the height of neighbouring properties also look set to get the green light without the need for planning permission. With Ministers saying this will “add dynamism” to house building in the capital, has a trend away from ‘localism’ been firmly set?

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