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Report recommends ‘yellowfield registers’ to release land for housing

Words: Laura Edgar
Green belt / iStock-506861544

Allowing local authorities to redesignate green belt land by creating ‘yellowfield registers’ would enable the release of land for housing, a think tank has said.

Local authorities should be afforded such discretion in areas where green belt protection is unwarranted, according to Localis.

The recommendation is one of three to feature in Disrupting the Housing Market, which has been sponsored by regeneration firm Lovell.

The report aims to break the housebuilding impasse and address structural problems affecting supply, demand and affordability of new homes nationwide.

The other two recommendations are:

  • State investment in, and ownership of, new housing factories to disrupt the housing industry and produce a generation of new modular homes for onsite assembly.
  • Extension of the principle of auto-enrolment from pensions to saving deposits among 18-40 year olds to speed up the time it takes young people to earn the deposit for their first home.

A YouGov poll conducted for the report reveals that 58 per cent of those asked who did not own a home say they are not saving anything each month, with just 23 per cent saying they were saving for a new home. It also suggests that 78 per cent of homeowners were either happy or fairly happy with their accommodation.

The report also comprises a number of suggestions for overcoming “deep-rooted” structural obstacles to speeding up housebuilding, including:

  • Giving local authorities more flexibility to plan for new homes.
  • Tasking the National Infrastructure Commission with creating a programme of new towns where they are needed around the south-east of England.
  • A more direct use of surplus public land to site new housing developments.
  • Extending protections and flexibilities for families who use the private rented sector by allowing them to choose their initial tenancy length at six-month intervals up to 36 months, with a one-month break option after six months.

Jonathan Goring, managing director of Lovell, said: “We are calling for more flexible and imaginative use of green belt and public land, and more widespread use of modern construction techniques. These measures will more swiftly deliver new homes in places where people want to live.

“Our proposals are practical and logical, provide a solution to the housing crisis, and will enable the next and future generations to enjoy the benefits of affordable property ownership.”

Disrupting the Housing Market can be found on the Localis website (pdf).


Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, told The Planner:  "The report by Localis is impressive in its wide reach – not, as some do, focusing on one single solution. We think a better solution to the challenge posed by green belts is to change the purposes so as to include an additional social purpose. We commend the strong support for strategic planning in the report, although the National Infrastructure Commission would need professional planning membership if it is to grow in this direction.

John Fuller, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), said he is pleased that the report accepts that strategies to increase the supply of homes must be ‘locally-led’.

“It will be district councils, working in partnership with neighbouring authorities, who provide the planning and housing expertise required to unlock the potential of housing deals. Our members look forward to bringing forward innovative and ambitious proposals underpinned by our track record of delivery.

“It will be vital for the Government to leverage our strengths as stockholding authorities and housing company operators by lifting of the HRA cap, implementing the CIL review, ensuring greater flexibility in the use of right to buy receipts and strengthened compulsory purchase powers for councils to build more market and social housing of the right type in the right place. It will be these game changing measures that allow us to get on with the serious business of addressing the housing crisis.”

Philip Atkins, chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN) Vice-Chairman and leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “With counties containing the most unaffordable housing outside of London, there is a near-unanimous view that the system needs reform. Counties, as strategic authorities, provide a platform to pinpoint the most viable sites for development over a wider area, while providing the certainty on where and when growth will happen for potential investors, as Localis argues.

“This approach will also allow for the joining up of planning and infrastructure – two pieces of the same jigsaw – so that there is no fragmentation in the system and it provides the mitigating infrastructure so communities do not feel the extra pressure on local services when development is completed.”

* The YouGov poll had a sample size of 1,593 adults.

Image credit | iStock