My main point, of course, is that the Prime Minister needs to listen to loyal backbenchers like Zahawi (there are many others) who are telling him that the Government’s planning reforms have not resulted in good quality housing that enhances places and is supported by local people, but (all too often) in bog standard developments plonked down on the most profitable greenfield sites.
In the article I say: “The Government’s fear is that changing course will lead to a fall in house building, making it even harder for young people to find a decent home. This is a legitimate concern. The country desperately needs more homes, including affordable homes in rural areas.
“The challenge is to get good quality, well-designed houses where they are needed, with as little loss of countryside or damage to existing places as possible. What we are seeing now is the worst of both worlds: too few houses built; too much damage done.
“Solving the country’s housing crisis will require measures that go way beyond the planning system. But a few relatively simple changes to planning policy can ensure better quality homes in the right places, without resulting in fewer homes being built.”
These steps include a clear brownfield-first policy; a real commitment to sustainable development where a local authority does not have an up to date plan; and a more realistic calculation of housing numbers. At the moment, and without serious reform of the housing market and public investment in house building, the housing targets are purely aspirational. No one believes they will be achieved.
The targets will not result in more homes being built, just in more greenfield land being allocated, allowing developers to cherry pick the most profitable sites and leave derelict the sites most in need of regeneration. It is extraordinary that a Government generally so sceptical about top-down targets is so committed to them in the case of house building.
The full article can be found here.
Will the Government listen to the many backbenchers who now want reform of the NPPF? Today’s Telegraph Leader and the article by Isabel Hardman are not encouraging. Public pressure will also be necessary. If you have not yet done so, please support CPRE’s Charter to save our countryside.