The confusion over Government changes to planning and housing policy is well reflected in your columns. My concern is that we’ll only know the consequences when it’s too late.
We all know that nowhere near enough new homes are being built – fewer than at any time since the 1970s. The Prime Minister himself has labelled planners as the enemies of enterprise. The Government is using the developers familiar sophistry that planners are to blame to justify scrapping Regional Development Strategies and with them the framework for homes, jobs and infrastructure investment. National planning policy has been shrunk to a few pages of ambiguous platitudes around the presumption in favour of development. Policies that protect business premises from housing hope value are being scrapped, impacting on enterprise.
As your article (Housing Developers Store up Land Ahead of Planning Reforms) demonstrates it’s not the planners who are responsible for the shortage of new homes. The real culprits are the big house builders, who “land bank” and the big banks, who “don’t bank”.
London Councils estimate that in London alone there are planning permissions for 170,000 homes that have not been taken up – more than five years supply. Builders acquire land with planning permission and sit on it. Banks that happily lent 125% to first time buyers in 2007 now demand a 30% deposit or something like £50,000 in London. It’s the house builders and the banks, who jointly control the supply of new homes and keep up the price.
The 54% of people you reported as being in favour of simplifying planning may not be so cheerful when chunks of Green Belt and lots of land for business and industrial start-ups have gone forever for only a marginal increase in the number of new homes.