By Christian Spence - Head of Research & Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
publication on Tuesday 7 February 2017 of the government's housing white paper Fixing
our broken housing market is a welcome addition to the policy
landscape if only for the tacit acknowledgement that the failure to deliver
an adequate supply of housing in the UK is a long-term problem
that requires significant remedial action to fix. However, it is not clear that
this publication offers any new answers to this critical issue.
paper correctly states that the fundamental problem is one of
under-supply, and that the lack of suitable land and sufficient
planning permissions lie at the heart of the issue. Local authority plans are
often incomplete or not up-to-date which slows down the planning application
process, a problem that has been exacerbated over the recent past by
significant cuts to local authority planning departments caused by fiscal
constraints imposed by central government. Coupled with an old-fashioned and
out-dated approach to Green Belt use where the arbitrary caps on city growth
established in the 1940s are considered suitable for today and a lack of
acceptance that brownfield land can only provide a limited amount of
development and that much of it requires remediation of a scale that makes development
commercially nonviable, the system overall seems incapable of delivering what
is needed and some of the changes proposed fail to take into account the
challenges of developers.
timescales within which development must be completed after planning permission
is approved misunderstands the complexities and financial risks that developers
face in bringing forward proposals, particularly of a large-scale. Government
and planning authorities must work more closely together to ensure they understand
each other's position and that the length of time required to move proposals
from conception to delivery, often slowed down by the planning system itself,
exposes builders to ever-greater risks. Combined with other issues such as
difficulty accessing capital and skills and increasingly complex regulations
and requirements, together these push up the development costs requiring ever
further intervention to provide affordable homes.
at a local and city-regional level must develop beyond simple land-use
allocation and seek to release greater areas of land for development
alongside the development of all other infrastructure, whether physical,
digital or social, required to support sustainable communities of the future.
Our response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework consultation
highlights these issues in detail. Identification of land for housing
development, seemingly chosen because it is politically easier to justify
rather than ensuring that the road, public transport, digital, school and
health facilities are in place, or at least the needs have been identified
and planned, is not in itself sufficient.
too long this country has been held back by artificially introduced barriers to
development. Government and local authorities should approach this problem not
through further interventions, but by removing the barriers that exist. It is
not clear that this white paper, or the GM Spatial Framework, as they stand,
answer these questions.
You can read the GMCC consultation response to GMSF by clicking here.