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Development corporations will deliver new towns

How can we achieve a significant upscale in house building?

It will come as no surprise to many that the Town and Country Planning Association should welcome the Shadow Chancellor’s support for development corporations in his speech to the National House Building Council in November.
The TCPA, which began as the Garden Cities Association and was central to the New Towns programme, has been campaigning for a new generation of sustainable garden cities as part of the solution to the housing crisis. For the first time in over 40 years there is consensus from all three major political party leaders that large-scale new communities – garden cities specifically – are an important part of the mix in delivering future homes and jobs.
However, while consensus over the scale and urgency of the housing crisis is welcome, the trickier question is how we achieve a significant upscale in house building. We need at least 240,000 new homes each year, more than double the current delivery rate. Meeting this challenge is not just about the quantity of housing, but creating high quality, beautiful places.
This is why Ed Balls’ support for development corporations is so important because it begins to address the question of delivery. Large-scale development requires long-term commitment and a dedicated delivery vehicle to see it through to completion.
While there are broad lessons to learn from the successes and failures of post-war new towns, their development corporations were highly successful and delivered homes for over two million people. They were  designed to deliver large-scale joined-up development, and did so effectively for 40 years. 
The Act under which they were created still exists, but has not been used recently because some see them as agents of central government, imposed on local areas and denying local authorities their normal rights and planning powers.
However, the TCPA believes this model can be strengthened to make it more democratically accountable through allowing local authorities to create, and effectively own, the development corporation, appointing their board and providing the operating brief. In early 2014, the TCPA will be publishing an amended version of the New Towns Act to demonstrate how locally-based development corporations could become the contractual partner for landowners and infrastructure providers, providing transparency, clarity and greater confidence all round and helping to deliver the homes and jobs that the nation so desperately needs.
Kate Henderson is chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)

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