No prospect of delivering 300,000 homes per year unless local councils given greater powers and resourced appropriately

Speaking during a meeting of the APPG for Civic Societies, Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones said “Whilst the Government wants to see `The right homes in the right places` the draft National Planning Policy Framework is so lacking in teeth to ensure that the policies will be delivered, and combined with under-resourced local councils, that we are very likely to end up with the wrong homes in the wrong places.”

Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the APPG for Civic Societies said, “Does anyone genuinely believe that if you build enough houses, house prices will come down?.” Without knocking developers, who are part of the solution, I have to query whether they are doing all they can to help build the houses? I say to them, to get more affordable housing, we must build real affordable housing in sustainable locations where people want to live in towns and cities. If not, we have to look at other ways of building the homes we need. It is easy to think of headline figures, but we are talking about real people’s lives being impacted by the housing crisis.”

The draft National Planning Policy Framework was published on 6th March with the consultation running to 10th May. Civic Voice and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies held a debate on 13th March to ask the question “Wil the NPPF review lead to the homes, the nation needs, being built? The panel included speakers from Royal Town Planning Institute and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The debate highlighted issues including: 

• England has not one housing market, but many. We need to be working towards having a plan-led system so that decisions are made locally as a one policy fits all approach does not work for the whole country. Context matters. We need a solution for Alnwick, Blackpool and London. And everywhere in between.
• To ensure we get plans in place, the planning system needs effective resources, particularly at local authority level, commensurate with the important role it plays. Planning is part of the solution not the problem.
• The panel supported the inquiry being led by Sir Oliver Letwin who has been charged by the Government to investigate why there is a gap between the number of planning permissions granted and the number of homes that are then built on those sites.
• It is pleasing that despite the constant attacks on the Green Belt, the draft NPPF review retains the current green belt policies. It was felt that the test for exceptional circumstances for when Green Belt can be released needs to be clarified.
• Let local authorities charge the planning fees they need to cover the costs they are spending on supporting the delivery of homes. The panel heard the example of one authority that made £500k loss on planning work in the previous year.
• The need to consider the VAT and Tax anomalies within the planning system around VAT or refurbishment. The group discussed ideas of taxation of property and how a Householder Tax could help use change and nudge behaviour.

Craig Mackinlay MP finished by saying, “We all have a role to play in finding the homes for our children and grandchildren. The APPG for Civic Societies will be holding further debates during the consultation period to raise awareness of the issues. We will then collect the findings together and meet with the Minister and share our findings about what the draft means for communities. I call on people to respond with evidence to the draft NPPF consultation and to share your thoughts with Civic Voice.”

The Next APPG for Civic Societies meeting will be on May 8th in Parliament, on the Historic Environment section of the NPPF. Civic Voice members will be sent further information to attend.

Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement. We lead and support civic societies as a national movement for quality of place, with people actively improving their towns, cities and villages and promote civic pride. We speak up for civic societies and local communities across England. We believe everyone should live somewhere they can be proud of and we know how people feel about places because we feel the same way. Civic societies are the most numerous participants in the planning system. Since its launch in April 2010 Civic Voice has been joined by over 290 civic societies with 75,000 members. Further information is available at including how to join Civic Voice (£10 individuals) and contact details for local civic societies.

Ian Harvey, Civic Voice (m) 07877 096968