Monday, 26 July 2010

Going, going, gone

While I have been otherwise engaged, the Secretary of State has at last carried out his much-trumpeted intention of scrapping Regional Strategies, as everyone is no doubt well aware by now. But, as I have observed before, the ghosts of the regional strategies will linger on, not least because (no matter whether targets are formally set or not), there is still a chronic shortage of housing in many parts of the country. The level of demand may have been masked to a degree by the difficulty of raising mortgages since the credit crunch, but the housing need is undoubtedly there, as the studies which informed the formulation of the regional strategies clearly showed. Those figures still hold good. Household formation continues apace, and housebuilding is nowhere near keeping up with it.

It has been suggested that we shall now have a housing free-for-all so far as applications and appeals are concerned, and PPS3 can be called in aid to support the need to release a lot more sites for housing. Not a lot has changed. The density target has gone (but that may lead to a demand for even more land for development at lower densities), and the definition of ‘brown land’ has been tweaked slightly, but PPS3 continues to urge the maximisation of development on urban land, and that must mean that garden land is still up for grabs, no matter what the press were told.

Things may change again when the new legislation on Development Plans is introduced, but it is unlikely to reach the statute book before next summer. Local Development Frameworks are also likely to face delay in the immediate future while planners work out how to take into account in their core strategies the removal of the regional element from the equation. In the meantime, developers who can raise the finance may have a wonderful window of opportunity if they get moving with their proposals. Nimby-driven planning authorities may dish out refusals, but on appeal there seems to me to be an enhanced chance of getting planning permissions for housing development, at least in the next year or so.

© Martin H Goodall

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