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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Conservatives put trust in communities to deliver homes

23/02/2010


The Conservative Party planning paper "Open Source Planning" sets out radical proposals to fundamentally change planning policy in England.

The Conservative Party propose re-writing many of the rules that govern current planning decisions and practice. These include a new national planning policy framework and a strengthened role for local communities in planning decisions.

Director of Policy and Practice Richard Capie said, "In their recent Two Nations report, the Conservatives set out their commitment to more market and social housing. This paper contains radical proposals that would need to play a key part in turning these ambitions into reality. The moves to strengthen local accountability and decision making around planning are welcome. Going hand in hand with important local government housing reforms in train just now, these ideas could lead to a fundamentally different approach to building more, better homes. But the scale of these proposed reforms should not be understated. This means that there are also significant risks. Any transition from the existing system will need to be handled with care to ensure that we don’t curtail what is currently a fragile recovery in house building".

In particular, the abolition of regional and national targets, while strengthening local accountability, will need to be managed carefully. For example, the proposal to adopt the current option one numbers in any transition could see shortfalls in housing in many parts of the country compared with present estimates of housing market need. The proposals also raise questions about how future central government funding for homes will best be assessed and matched to the aspirations of local communities across different housing markets.

There are also questions about the removal of requirements for affordable housing targets from local plans. While many local authorities are clear about the need for affordable housing, there is a risk that much needed housing, in particular, for vulnerable groups, could be prevented if it seen as unpopular in some communities. This will require strong local political leadership and if necessary appropriate safeguards may need to be put in place.

Similarly, proposals to reform approaches to planning gains could simplify what is a complex and costly system, but this will need to be managed carefully as these currently provide a key source of affordable housing.

The ideas in the paper would not only lead to fundamental reform at the national level but would also create new demands on local authorities housing and planning teams. As such any reforms will need to be matched with a corresponding boost in resources and capacity to deliver against these additional and changed responsibilities. Accordingly, these proposals must be co-ordinated with a wider programme of local government housing reform, including reform of local authority housing finance and new council house-building.

Richard Capie said "The scale of these reforms means they would take time to both put in to law, and put in to practice locally. If they are taken forward in conjunction with wider reform and reinvigoration of local authorities’ roles in housing, they could fundamentally change our thinking and approach to housing supply. However, they also represent a leap in to the unknown and we must make sure there is a stable transition if we are to manage any uncertainty and build on current fragile levels of house-building."

*ENDS*

News release issued on behalf of the CIH by Jill Dwyer, CIH Press Office, Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JP. Telephone: 02476 851780 or 07786 716961. Email: press@cih.org.

Notes to Editors:

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is the professional body for people involved in housing and communities. We are a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. We have a diverse and growing membership of over 22,000 – both in the public and private sectors – living and working in over 20 countries on five continents across the world. Our members work for local authorities, housing associations, Arms Length Management Organisations, Government bodies, educational establishments and the private sector. Many tenants and residents are also members. We exist to maximise the contribution that housing professionals make to the wellbeing of communities. Further information is available at: www.cih.org

Open Source Planning Document: http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/02

/New_homes_and_jobs_through_Open_Source_Planning.aspx


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