It doesn’t matter who the minister is at the time, when it comes to DCLG and planning policy, they apparently all have the same priority – developers and their wellbeing.
Although all of us with an interest in planning, have been shouting long and loud, about the shortcomings of the NPPF. However, what we didn’t really cotton on to initially, or at least not as far as I noticed, was a hand grenade with the pin already out, called viability.
It would be nice to think that the government’s rationale for introducing the viability trap, was to overcome developer sins of the past – greed.
You might recall that, in the lead up to the 2007 financial bubble burst, house prices were increasing at a ridiculous pace. Developers were keen to cash in on this lunacy and seemed ready to pay just about any price to get their hands on land. Of course, landowners, were equally keen to cash in, so pushed for the highest price they could get.
Now if you or I overpaid for something we bought and then expected somebody else to pick up the bill, because we couldn’t afford to use it, we’d be told tough luck mate, them’s the breaks. Developers overpaid for land that they then banked, confident that the only way was up when it came to house and therefore land prices.
However, in the case of the developers, they’ve found something else to cash in on – the government’s panic about the economy and their belief that house building will somehow save it. So instead of having to bite the bullet and take the hit in their pockets, the developers have convinced the government that nothing will get built, unless they can wriggle out of all of the requirement
Minister urged to protect future of rural affordable homes
Housing minister Brandon Lewis has been urged to protect small rural communities from Government proposals which could drastically cut the development of new affordable homes.
Community Lincs is backing the plea by its national body ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), which has written to the Minister to outline its objections.
The charity says the planned changes to policy will threaten the future of communities in the countryside, where house prices have risen by 82pc in the past 10 years.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is consulting on its proposals to remove section 106 planning obligations, which deliver affordable housing, from sites of fewer than 10 homes.
ACRE, the national voice for England’s 38 rural community councils, says small-scale developers may simply stop building affordable homes if the changes go ahead.
The charity is calling on the Minister to exempt all sites in communities with a population under 3,000.
Community Lincs Chief Executive, Fiona White said: “Figures from DCLG show that in 2012/13, 66pc (1,905) of homes in settlements under 3,000 were delivered through Section 106 agreements.
“Clearly, the proposed changes would prevent a significant number of affordable homes being developed each year. This would have a profoundly damaging effect on small, rural communities – threatening their long-term sustainability.
“Affordable housing enables local people to remain in a community where they have families, schools and jobs. It allows people to return to communities where they grew up and it helps sustain local services, including schools, businesses and shops.
“If these changes go ahead, we expect to see developers only building housing at market prices to obtain the greatest profits. There is a major shortage of affordable homes across the UK and Government policies should ensure that more are built, not fewer.”
ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: “We are calling on DCLG to make an exception for communities with a population under 3,000. This would give the Minister the opportunity to deliver a policy that works for the right reasons in the right communities whilst avoiding serious damage to affordable housing delivery in small, rural communities.”
Ms Banks said a cross-party bill, which would give local authorities the decision on the most appropriate threshold, was not the answer.
She said: “While we agree that DCLG’s proposals don’t take any local conditions into account, leaving the decision with local authorities will simply result in a postcode lottery. An exemption for small communities is the fairest solution.”
Media contact: Stuart Duckworth: 01529 301967
Notes to editors:
· Section 106 agreements – known as planning obligations – require developers to provide contributions – such as affordable homes or playgrounds, for example – to offset negative impacts caused by construction and development.
· Rural house prices have risen 82% in 10 years, faster than urban areas. (Simple Average House Price Sales, The Land Registry)
· In 2011, the average lower quartile house price was 8.3 times the average lower quartile earnings in predominantly rural areas. This compares with 7.1 in predominantly urban areas and 7.3 in England as a whole.