Martin Ford 15 September 2020

Councils warn of 'housebuilding fiasco'

New government housing targets will lead to a north-south divide in England, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The LGA found the proposed new formula will result in the highest percentage increase in new homes in the Midlands and the South, with lower growth rates in northern regions.

LGA housing spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said: ‘This seriously jeopardises any ambition to level-up the country.

‘Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their areas best.’

The LGA cited Brighton and Hove, which will be expected to deliver a 287% increase in housing while Dover will have to increase housing by 294% and Tunbridge Wells by 184%.

Proposed targets for the north-east are 28% lower than existing delivery, 8% lower in the north-west and 6% lower in Yorkshire and Humberside.

The LGA said the changes would also ‘disproportionately’ impact on rural areas, with some facing a 59% increase in homes over the current algorithm, compared to a 20% increase in major urban areas.

District Councils’ Network vice-chair, Cllr Tom Beattie, said: ‘The Government’s planning reforms are proposing a national housebuilding fiasco based on a muddy formula cooked-up in Whitehall which rides roughshod over local housing need.'

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the LGA’s fears were ‘unfounded’ and that the formula would undergo consultation.

A spokeswoman added: ‘As under the current system, local housing need will only be the starting point in the process of planning for new homes and councils will still need to consider local circumstances to decide how many homes can be delivered in their areas.’

The Government’s planning reforms extending permitted development for changes of use, vertical extensions and demolition of vacant buildings have also come under fire from the House of Lords

Lord German, a member of the committee scrutinising the legislation, said: ‘While we acknowledge that the Government’s intention is to encourage economic growth and address housing shortages, concerns have been raised that these changes could result in low-quality housing and reduce the ability of local authorities to shape the character of their high streets.’

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