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Jenrick admits council planning departments will need more money for reforms

Words: The Planner
Robert Jenrick / Chris McAndrew

The government’s planning reforms will lead to more investment in local authority departments, the housing secretary has acknowledged, calling the proposals a 'huge change' requiring 'further resources and support from my department'.

Robert Jenrick also said a key test of the reforms will be if they reduced the proportion of new homes by volume house builders. The reforms, which require local authorities to produce local plans within 30 months alongside a new era of design codes, will need extra government funding, he conceded, and will be “very challenging” for local authorities to introduce.

His admission follows intense lobbying by the planning and development sector, including the RTPI, after council planning departments suffered cuts of 40 per cent or more during austerity. “It’s just a truth that many local authorities have had to reduce capacity. We need to ensure that they are better resourced, and we need to be re-focusing planning departments and professionals on the things that drove them in to the profession in the first place,” he told the Create Streets annual conference.

“I hope that this could be a defining moment for the profession. It will be a huge change, it will require further resources and support from my department.” Jenrick said the reforms must also break the stranglehold of volume builders on housing development - with current industry figures indicating the top ten companies build 90,000 or around 60 per cent of new homes.

“I don’t think we will have succeeded with our reforms if we are sat here in 10 or 20 years’ time and the market was as concentrated as it is today,” he added. “If we don’t take action there is every chance that the market will be become even more concentrated. Our volume house builders have very strong balance sheets and are looking to consolidate their position in the market.

“The need for action is clear, and I hope the things we are putting forward in the white paper will create a more diverse and competitive market than we see today. That’s certainly one of the key missions that we’ve set ourselves.”

Image credit | Chris McAndrew