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Welsh minister admits stronger links are required between housing need and planning

Words: Roger Milne
Julie James / National Assemby for Wales

The Welsh Government has accepted the need to strengthen the links between housing need and the planning process.

Housing and local government minister Julie James made that clear when she told AMs this week that the government had either accepted, or accepted in principle, every recommendation from the affordable housing supply review – with the exception of proposals for the future of Help to Buy.

She told a session of the Assembly’s Plenary: “The panel highlighted the importance of understanding housing need and some of the challenges local authorities face in this area.

“They highlighted the strong role the government could and should play, and the importance of strengthening the links between housing need and the planning process.

“I accept this critique and welcome their support for the work we have done on assessing need at a national and regional level. Their suggestion that this work should now be extended to a local level is one I support and intend to pursue.”

She stressed that one of the key ways to increase the supply of social housing would involve local authorities getting back to building council houses at pace and scale.

The minister added: “I accept the panel’s view that more should be done to use the land available across the public sector more effectively and more quickly to support housebuilding.

“I also agree that some central resource to help local authorities and others in the public sector bring forward their land is needed. I accept the principle that a land unit of some description should support the more effective use of public sector land. This is an issue on which the whole of the public sector needs to up its game.

“We need to be far more sophisticated in the way we use public land to support a wider range of objectives than simply generating the highest capital receipt, and I want to see stronger joint working across organisations to help achieve this. “

James promised further statements “in due course” on decarbonisation, planning matters and building regulations.

In a letter to chief planning officers circulated this week, James pointed out that the latest version of Planning Policy for Wales (PPW) already allows local planning authorities to identify sites for up to 100 per cent affordable housing.

She wrote: “The need for social housing is now so acute that this policy needs to be implemented in a flexible way to reflect local circumstances. PPW will be updated to reflect the revised policy as part of the current review of the delivery of housing through the planning system.”

The minister added: “When reviewing local development plans local planning authorities must make provision for affordable housing-led housing sites.

“Such sites will include at least 50 oer cent affordable housing, which is defined as social rented housing provided by local authorities and registered social landlords, and intermediate housing where prices or rents are above those of social rent but below market levels and there are secure arrangements to recycle receipts to use for future affordable housing where full ownership is achieved.

“In the first instance affordable housing-led housing sites should make use of public land. Where public land is not available, privately owned land may be identified. Sites should not be inferior in any way to sites which are being promoted for market housing.”

Image credit | National Assembly for Wales