According to the latest report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government committee, “lack of detail,” about the government’s three areas proposal, “made it difficult to assess how it would function”.
The government proposed that every local authority through its local plan would allocate land in three areas: growth, renewal and protected. Growth areas would be suitable for “substantial development,” renewal areas for development, and development on protected areas would be limited.
The report said that the three areas proposal was potentially unsuitable in urban areas, that local plans may not have the requisite level of detail for developers, and that there was uncertainty around the purpose of renewal areas and level of protection for protected areas.
“Overall, we are unpersuaded that the government’s zoning-based approach will produce a quicker, cheaper, and democratic planning system,” the report noted.
It added that there should be greater clarity on how the government will deliver its ambition of 300,000 housing units a year. The report said that there was “scepticism,” around the validity of the target and whether it can be delivered.
The report continued that the pace of completing planning permission was “too slow,” and that “carrots and sticks are needed to quicken the pace.”
It said that the government should increase the extent of multi-tenure construction on large sites, explore using development corporations and encourage use of smaller sites and small and medium size builders.
Critically, the committee recommended that there should be a time limit of 18 months from the approval of planning permission to construction work commencing, and if work had not progressed adequately then planning permission should be revoked.
The report also warned that the government’s First Homes scheme should not reduce incentives for other types of shared housing, especially shared ownership and social housing.
The First Homes scheme was launched last week with seven lenders signed up so far. It aims to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder with a minimum 30 per cent discount on market price for certain new builds.
The report said that the discount should “remain in perpetuity,” and recommended that it lay out its timetable for First Homes becoming available and local authorities should have discretion as to what proportion of First Homes are built.
Finally, the report recommended that there should be a review of the purpose of the Green Belts and whether they are still effective.