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19/07/2017

Counties press for new planning role to link housing and infrastructure

Words: Huw Morris
Mayoral elections in England / Shutterstock_225476584

County councils should have an enhanced role in planning through new strategic arrangements with districts to help overcome nimbysim and boost housing delivery.

The County Councils Network (CCN) said the average county house price is now nine times the average yearly earnings, rising to 12 times higher in some counties in the South East.

The CCN, which represents 27 county councils across England, said communities fear that developments are not supported with the necessary infrastructure and funding. As a result, major developments are unpopular locally, with residents and MPs resisting moves to build homes.

It points to the current “fragmented system” that sees districts overseeing housing and counties managing infrastructure. By bringing them together in strategic planning arrangements, it argues, counties and districts could plan for homes across an entire county “rather than the current system being restricted to pockets of areas containing on average 100,000 people”.

Councils could then pinpoint the most appropriate areas for development rather than proposing to “cram homes into small pockets” or build without the necessary infrastructure.

“Strategic planning will allay the considerable fears felt in communities over housebuilding, targeting developments in the most appropriate areas, with joined-up plans and financing for these homes allowing the necessary infrastructure to be created so communities do not feel the extra burden on public services,” said CCN vice-chairman and Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins.

Any reform must be backed by fair and adequate funding for infrastructure for county areas, the CCN argues, with counties receiving £291 less per person for key services. This has led to infrastructure gaps amounting to billions of pounds in county areas.

The RTPI said it had long argued that councils should voluntarily work together across city-regions or counties to effectively deliver housing and infrastructure, citing its strategic planning policy paper Strategic Planning.

Head of policy Richard Blyth said: "By working together they can plan to build housing alongside infrastructure so new and existing communities are well connected. In the longer term, we'd like to see complete coverage of combine authorities across England aligned with Local Enterprise Partnerships to her resolve some of the issues identified by the CCN."

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