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Raab announces development corporation powers for councils

Words: Laura Edgar
Garden communities / iStock-172280318

Housing minister Dominic Raab has launched new powers for councils that will see them able to seek government approval to establish a New Town Development Corporation.

The body would be responsible for delivering new towns and garden communities in the council area.

They will also do all of the masterplanning and project development, attract private investment, partner with developers and oversee the completion of the new settlement.

The government expects them to deliver “tens of thousands of new homes”.

The development corporations will need to involve communities in the project so they can have a say on how housing is delivered, ensuring that it is of a high quality, while councils are expected to hold them to account. Previously, development corporations were held to account by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

They will be led by council representatives, community stakeholders, experts in delivering major projects and other partner organisations.

Raab said: “We need to build the homes our communities need and I’m committed to giving councils the tools they need to deliver.

“That’s why we’re giving councils the option of applying to establish development corporations. These will be locally accountable and must listen to the views of the community to ensure that the right homes are built in the right places.”

A change to the New Towns Act 1981 will see the powers to oversee and lead the creation of new communities shift from the Secretary of State to local councils, which could see a development corporation created to deliver three garden communities in north Essex.

John Spence CBE, chairman of North Essex Garden Communities Ltd (NEGC), the council-owned company set up to oversee the creation of the three proposed new communities in north Essex, said: “Government has recognised the unrivalled potential of North Essex as an opportunity for significant economic growth and the NEGC programme as the conduit to develop new communities for the future by unlocking transport and business opportunities and ensuring no development occurs without the roads, schools, health and leisure infrastructure to support it.”

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association, said: “The LGA has long called for oversight of local development corporations to be carried out by councils, so that local communities can have as much say as possible about developments in their areas. It is positive that the government has listened to the views of local communities on local development corporations.

“We will continue to engage with the government to ensure that we can make the most of these new opportunities to deliver homes through local development corporations, and will continue to support the sector in efforts to deliver new homes. However, there is no quicker way to deliver these homes than by triggering the renaissance in council housebuilding we need by lifting the housing borrowing cap and enabling councils to borrow to build once more.”

Katy Lock, garden cities and new towns projects and policy manager at the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “New towns are an important part of the portfolio of solutions needed to address the nation’s housing and growth needs. We welcome the government’s recognition of the power of modernised development corporations but as key requirements are not secured in the legislation, the success of the regulations now rests on the supporting guidance. It is vital that the guidance document to support these regulations sets out a robust and transparent process which focuses on quality, affordability, genuine public participation, high environmental standards and on ensuring communities have the resources they need to look after assets in the long-term.”

Image credit | iStock