17th August 2016
‘Housing Crisis’ is a product of a creaking Planning System
The following article comes from Iceni and is an interesting read which will help Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce members understand some of the current planning issues we face locally.
The term ‘housing crisis’ has become de rigeur in the past few days; although arguably it is a term that is never too far from the public’s mind.
On Monday Dispatches reported, with typical Channel Four enthusiasm, on the scandalous lack of housing delivery on former public land sold specifically to help meet the Conservative’s housing target.
The planning system is creaking, and currently failing local authorities, developers, residents, amenity organisations and potential homeowners.
Several of the former Ministry of Defence sites Dispatches used as examples in their report are themselves victims of the planning system (although admittedly there are other issues at play, but that’s a different story).
Again, on Monday The Times recognised this too with a report on chronic under-resourcing and lack of funding at Local Planning Authorities resulting in lengthy delays to major, as well as minor, planning applications.
The evidence they present is compelling, with a £450 million budget shortfall for Local Authorities creating a ‘Planning Blight’.
One solution is of course to pass the budget burden onto Applicants, The Local Government Association reports to The Times that ‘Developers are increasingly willing to pay more’ to help speed up the planning application process.
Many developers sign up to Planning Performance Agreements with the promise of proper resourcing.
Unfortunately, more often than not, this doesn’t necessarily provide the desired outcome.
A lack of funding and limited Local Authority resource is of course a contributing factor to the planning crisis, but to view the crisis as purely financially driven is again missing the point.
The planning crisis is down to strategy; an unwillingness to step back, review and enact a wholesale reform of the whole.
For too long the approach to reforming planning, and the perception of planning, has been too piecemeal and short-term, often caught in the midst of election cycles.
Let’s take the approach to the Green Belt as an example.
Even if the scandal of housing delivery on former public land is addressed, this land will still not go far enough to address the housing crisis, particularly in the South East.
Fundamentally brownfield sites will not cut it, and Local Authorities understand this with many currently assessing the need to utilise some Green Belt land as they develop their Local Plans.
But this is the problem, they are too localised in their approach, seeking to address their own housing need with minimal incursions into the Green Belt, appeasing the residents and lobby groups.
We need to take a step back and take a strategic view, a proper review of the Green Belt in its entirety will allow future development to be fully planned, creating sustainable developments; the London Green Belt after all does encapsulate many key transport hubs.
Such a suggestion is of course unpalatable to many, but that is why reform of the approach to the planning system is required.
The housing crisis is not just a fashionable term for journalists, it is a reality and as both Dispatches and The Times have shown us this week there are several contributing factors to this.
A fundamental reform of the system and approach to long-term planning (from all sides of the spectrum) will go a long away to help address these underlying issues. The ‘housing crisis’ is a product of a creaking planning system.