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New Report Wants To Make Planning "Sexy" To Boost Housebuilding


4 min read

A cross-party group of MPs is working up a report that aims to make planning “sexy” in the latest bid to boost housebuilding in towns and cities across the UK.

Ben Everitt, MP for Milton Keynes North, and Chair of All-Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Housing Market and Housing Delivery, has co-authored the upcoming paper which will look at removing barriers to building homes.

The as-yet unnamed report, which will be published close to Conservative Party conference in October, will also look at bolstering planning departments with more skills and resources.

Proposals being considered in initial drafts have already had an impact on Government policy. Levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove adopted a recommendation on overhauling EU pollution laws. Ministers had believed scrapping nutrient neutrality rules could have resulted in an extra 100,000 homes by 2030, but an amendment to the Levelling-up Bill to remove the rule was voted down in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

“The objective is to get the right homes in the right place at the right time,” Everitt said.

“The big opportunity we have got is Levelling Up. There’s billions and billions of pounds being put into communities which have historically been left behind.

"We need to make planning a more attractive profession. We need to get more and better planners in local authorities. But if nothing, we need to make planning sexy."

Another recommendation from the report will include building more houses in the areas which are receiving money from the Government’s flagship Levelling-up fund. The 4.8billion Fund will be spread across more than 100 districts and councils

“The opportunity we've got with levelling up is to leverage those billions of quid and make it sustainable by getting the right amount of housing,” Everitt added. 

Areas that are receiving more than £20million of taxpayers’ money include Blackburn, Blackpool, Telford, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Cardiff, Swansea and Lincoln.

“Levelling-up at its core is about people. It's about creating opportunities. That translates to jobs. Jobs generate economic activities, but they’re done by people who live in houses," he continued.

“When [houses] are clustered together [they] are about communities. And you put communities together in places that have a local economy. And all of a sudden, you're talking [about] placemaking.”

Everitt insisted the report will not be a rehash of the Government’s planning white paper which was published in 2020, which recommended moving Britain towards a zonal system. Planning zones give guidance and restrictions on the types of homes and projects that can build in certain areas.

“I wouldn't go as far as zonal. I mean, that was in the original white paper from a few years ago that contained some really good ideas and was, I think, pushing in the right direction,” he added.

“For a series of political reasons, it got shut down.” 

Everitt said he would favour bringing back housing targets to the UK's planning system.

“There’s always going to need to be some kind of target, if you’re going to have a system where the central government is involved,” he said.

However, he would modify the old system, as he claimed many councils felt they were being “punished” for hitting their targets once they reached them by being given even higher housing targets.

Everitt also told PoliticsHome he believed it was important not to saturate the housing market with too many “four or five bedroom” homes.

“It’s very, very important that we get the right level of smaller, affordable, fewer bedroom houses into the market,” he explained.

To make housing more affordable, Everitt said the Government needs to “feed the beast with supply”.

“The options for affordability need to include… social rent, affordable rent and things like shared ownership," he added. 

“All those options play a vital part in the housing mix. And the more diverse that mix is, the better it is for consumers.”

Fundamentally, Everitt felt the big challenge facing Britain’s housebuilding sector is that the country’s planning system takes “too long” and is “too controversial”.

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