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01/02/2014

Blog: What the 2015 election means for planning

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What can we expect between now and the next general election? 

The Autumn Statement revealed that the government will consult on removing section 106 affordable housing requirements from schemes with fewer than 10 homes. This could be a problem in rural areas, where there is a big shortage of affordable housing and large developments are rare.
 
The erosion of “planning gain”
obligations on developers is a concern. A factor that may not affect the affordable homes programme but may affect the next phase is the cutting of commitments to include affordable housing in private developments, with a reported 60 per cent of large developments now falling below local targets for such housing. 
 
With so much emphasis on reducing reliance on grant funding from the Homes and Communities Agency, or on schemes having no grant, the role of planning gain in supplying land or homes at no (or reduced) cost in grant is crucial.
 
Future governments are likely to do more work on the efficiency, effectiveness and speed of the planning system, which is not necessarily a problem if there is an opportunity to ensure that local input and interests are properly balanced.
 
The government needs to have a clear view of the role it wants planning gain to play in the delivery of other policies. Planning also needs to be properly resourced. The system will struggle to deliver if there aren’t enough planners or if planning departments can’t attract people with the right skills and experience.
 

"Government needs to have a clear view of the role it wants planning gain to play in the delivery of other policies"

 
We are waiting to hear how housing will feature in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos. Millions are struggling to find a decent affordable home. We are building fewer than half the homes we need to meet the demand. 
 
Housing was high on the agenda at the Conservative and Labour annual party conferences, but it seems there is less agreement on the way 
forward. 
 
The Conservatives are focusing on policies to strengthen demand in the expectation of a supply response, while Labour has pledged to increase the supply of new homes in England to more than 200,000 a year.
 
Proposals include giving communities ‘use it or lose it’ powers to release land with planning permission that the party says is being hoarded by some landowners, and giving councils a ‘right to grow’.
 
In December, Ed Miliband launched the independent Lyons Commission, to examine these and other issues. I’m pleased to have been included in the commission and will be exploring these proposals with my fellow panel members between now and July.
 
Grainia Long is chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing
 

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