Councils who have run out of Brownfield building sites may be forced to release areas of Green Belt in order to deliver the new homes demanded by the Government.
But only in the last resort.
Bruton Knowles’ Town Planner Paul Barton said the long-awaited government White Paper on future housing requirements had stopped short of downsizing the UK Green Belt.
Paul Barton said: “The Government has admitted that 40 per cent of local authorities don’t have a workable plan to meet demand but it appears backbenchers have gotten cold feet about opening the way for significant development within the Green Belt itself.”
Rather than wholesale changes to the Green Belt, councils will instead be expected to deliver more homes from city centre sites and consider high-rise blocks, as the Government thinks the solution might be to build smaller houses to higher densities - but that does rather assume that people will want to buy them.
Presenting the new White Paper, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has urged local authorities to provide “honest” figures on the number of homes needed in an area, accusing some of ‘fudging the numbers’.
Paul Barton said authorities would be kept on a tighter rein.
“From November this year, if new home delivery falls below 85 per cent of the council’s housing requirement, authorities will be expected to plan for a 20 per cent buffer on their five-year land supply, if they have not already done so.
If delivery falls below 95 per cent the Local Planning Authority will be will be instructed to produce an action plan setting out the reasons for failing to meet housing need and what action will be taken to address the shortfall, and various other thresholds for 2018, 2019 and 2020.”
He went on: “There will be new powers to set up New Town Development Corporations to deliver garden communities and authorities will be encouraged to use compulsory purchase powers for delayed housing sites.
“In addition, the Homes and Communities Agency will be relaunched as Homes England, with a view to get more homes for communities across all housing tenures, put in infrastructure to unlock housing capacity and attract small builders and new players to diversify the market on a sustainable basis.”
There is a move away from Starter Homes to instead provide a minimum 10 per cent of affordable homes set a local level, and the starter home discount term will move from 5 years to 15.
But Paul Barton felt more could have been done to deliver new houses, if, as the Government puts it, the Housing system is broken.
“We had been expecting some fairly significant reforms to free up previously protected land and an overhaul of a countryside protection policy introduced in the 1930s.
“Our fear is that the Government’s ‘tweaks’ will have little impact on housing waiting lists or be any use to the thousands of people trying to get on to the property ladder in the near future at least.
“As before, councils will be allowed to take land out of the Green Belt but only in circumstances where overwhelming housing need has been demonstrated. But this stops well short of the campaign on NIMBYism which many commentators had forecast.”
It is of note that Neighbourhood Plan steering groups will have the right to obtain a housing requirement figure from the local planning authority in order they allocate housing within the plan, and that further funding will be provided for such groups from 2018 to 2020.
The Department for Communities and Local Government will also introduce new measures to encourage older people to downsize in a bid to help free up larger properties which are currently under-occupied.