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Cameron unveils more planning deregulation

Words: Huw Morris

New moves by Prime Minister David Cameron to deregulate planning in a bid to increase home ownership among young people have received a mixed reaction.

Under measures to be introduced in the housing and planning bill, automatic planning permission will be granted in principle on brownfield sites. Local authorities will also have a new duty to allocate land to people who want to build their own homes.

The government added that local authorities will be able to bid for a share of a £10 million starter homes fund – part of a £36 million package to accelerate the delivery of starter homes.

House builders warmly welcomed the move. Home Builders Federation executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: "Greater flexibility in the way affordable housing is provided should not only speed up the process of securing an implementable planning permission but also make more sites viable for new housing. This will in turn increase availability of homes of all types and help address the chronic shortage that has been allowed to develop.”

But the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) branded the move as effectively the introduction of US-style zonal planning and a major change to the system that the government is introducing with no consultation, and no safeguards to ensure high-quality places.

"It is worrying that this has come at a time when we know we need smart green cities that can deal with climate change and provide healthy environments for ordinary people," said TCPA head of policy Hugh Ellis. “These announcements are a missed opportunity to ensure we create high-quality, successful and climate-resilient places.”

The British Property Federation warned the government not to be too focused on owner-occupation in its drive to deliver homes.

“There are two things that government must not forget in its headlong pursuit of creating new homes, however. One is that homes for owner occupation are not the only option. The build-to-rent sector has the potential to deliver a huge number of additional homes and to drive up standards in the rental sector, and must not be disregarded in favour of homes for sale - there is room for both,” said chief executive Melanie Leech.

"The other is that thriving communities need a mix of amenities to be a success. In order to create places where people want to live, there need to be places for people, to work, shop, and enjoy themselves, and planning policy must reflect that accordingly."