With a belief that the delivery of housing and regeneration sits at the heart of supporting a strong economic bounce back and society’s needs, we welcome reform that can speed up and renew the planning process in the UK. In particular, we are supportive of progressive thinking and adjustments around the delivery of democratically created local plans, alongside a focus on digitisation and building more, better designed homes.
This planning reform has the potential to act as a huge catalyst for change, so we hope final legislation will see more emphasis on sustainability. As we continue to see decreasing value and footfall within our town centres, policy which enables well thought-out change of use would also be welcome. This would accelerate brownfield housing development, whilst creating employment opportunities and improving wellbeing. It is now more important than ever that we are building communities that are fit for purpose and sustainable for the future.
Current proposals see further potential shortfalls in the provision of affordable housing. The move away from S106 schemes towards an Infrastructure Levy will need clear guidance so that it does not adversely impact the number of affordable homes delivered. With 1.3m households on social housing waiting lists, the levy will need to clearly ring-fence funds for existing affordable options, whilst also taking into account requirements to meet the need for local infrastructure. Increasing access to home ownership for those on moderate incomes, including key workers, is an important policy area. However the First Homes initiative needs further careful thought if it is going to provide homes that people can afford, particularly when compared to shared ownership.
We would also encourage more focus on the UK’s ageing demographic, with one in four of the population being over-65 by 2035. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, retirement communities have proven their vital role in ensuring older people are safely and securely provided for and protected. With evidence that they take a huge strain off the NHS, we hope government can align housing with the health and social care agenda to provide a holistic cross-departmental solution. There is a risk that the new ‘growth’ or ‘renewal’ areas would serve as a barrier to new retirement communities and would be overlooked in favour of traditional development. Also missing from the current proposals is provision and priority for other in-demand tenures helping to deliver quality housing at scale, such as dedicated Build to Rent.
With these new reforms potentially representing the biggest transformation in the system since the post-war years, funding is the final area which needs significant attention. Planning departments continue to need more resources to deliver. If government is to create these welcome and revolutionary changes to the system, they must provide an overhaul of funding within local authority planning departments.
As a major investor across all property tenures, as well as employing the UK’s largest team of housing surveyors, we look forward to providing input during the consultation process