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21/09/2015

Housing should be classed as infrastructure, says report

Words: Laura Edgar
homes with parking

The UK government should consider bringing housing within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime in an attempt to alleviate the housing crisis, according to a report released today.

The report states that there is a “clear imperative” for the government to show “strong political leadership in driving large-scale housing development” in the interest of the public.

Housing – Nationally Significant Infrastructure?, commissioned by law firm Bond Dickinson and planning consultant Quod, explains that the NSIP regime could also be an effective way of “harnessing the power and ability of the private sector in tackling the housing crisis”.

The report concludes that although there is support for new towns as a contribution to alleviating the housing crisis, this is unlikely to happen without policy and legislation that overcomes barriers that prevent bringing forward large-scale housing and mixed-use projects within the planning system.

Citing the need for at least 240,000 new homes each year, the report considers Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners’ research that found only 25 per cent of local authorities have a sound plan in place, with 46 per cent operating without one.

Kevin Gibbs, partner at Bond Dickinson, said: “The principles of localism are laudable, but the current planning system simply doesn’t ensure that local authorities will deliver housing on the scale we need. There is a clear imperative for central government to lift restrictions on housing delivery and show strong political leadership in driving large-scale housing development in the national public interest.”

There are specific advantages to the NSIP regime the report lays out that would address many of the barriers to bringing forward sites for development, including: fixed timescales for decision-making; a single consenting process that includes compulsory purchase; and the confidence provided by the upfront establishment of need.

Although the July budget included proposals that would allow major infrastructure projects with an element of housing to be included in the NSIP regime, housing-led schemes remain excluded.

John Rhodes, director at Quod, said remedying the “chronic under-provision of housing” should be an “economic and a social priority”.

However, developers are denied access to the NSIP regime for housing proposals and as a result, “denied the use of the single most effective regime for delivering development”.

“With appropriate safeguards in place, the use of the NSIP regime would transform the ability of the private sector to make a meaningful contribution to the national housing crisis,” concluded Rhodes.

Housing – Nationally Significant Infrastructure? follows the publication of a report by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Cymru last week.

The annual Welsh Housing Review states that to maximise the benefits of national investment, “housing should be understood as critical to any economic analysis” and be seen as infrastructure, in addition to its established role as a force for social justice and tackling poverty.

Julie Nicholas, editor of the review and CIH Cymru policy and public affairs manager, said: “We have been undersupplying new homes for many years in Wales, and it is vital to begin building more new homes at the same time that we are beginning these huge projects; the next Welsh Government must take the lead in marrying the two together."

Housing – Nationally Significant Infrastructure? can be downloaded here.

The Welsh Housing Review can be found here.

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