Government climbs down on housing formula

The Government has revised proposals for controversial planning reforms in England after the new housing targets prompted a backlash by Conservative MPs. A computer-based formula used to decide where houses should be located has been “updated” to focus more on cities and urban areas in the North and Midlands.  Ministers said cash for brownfield sites would be distributed more fairly outside London and the South East.

Yesterday the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced that 20 cities would instead be asked to build an extra 100,000 new homes in the next five years, heading off a rebellion from Conservative councillors and backbench MPs.

The action comes after more than two thousand local councillors joined with the countryside charity CPRE and Friends of the Earth to call on the government to abandon the most damaging elements of its changes to the planning system. The changes the government have proposed threaten to ignore local voices on planning issues and valued areas of local green space and countryside.

In August, the Government proposed a new formula designed to provide a rough estimate to councils on how many properties needed to be built in their communities. Local authorities would have been expected to come forward with potential sites – taking into account constraints, such as areas protected by the green belt.

However, although the government has now backtracked on one of their most damaging proposals to change the planning system, the fate of other changes set out in the Government’s planning white paper remains unclear. The reason for the most drastic reform of planning in more than half a century (see: ) was Jenrick’s allegation that “it takes an average of five years for a standard housing development to go through the planning system”. This is reported in some quarters as developers’ gossip and is simply untrue.

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