London town halls that refuse to shoulder their share of solving the capital’s housing crisis should be stripped of some of their planning powers by Whitehall, a hard-hitting report says today.
The radical recommendation is made in a manifesto from the g15 group of major housing associations — including Peabody, Notting Hill Housing and Family Mosaic — that provide homes for about one in 10 Londoners.
The document, called Unlocking Land And Planning, says “poorly performing local authorities should cede powers to the Department for Communities and Local Government or a (possibly roving) Urban Development Corporation”.
The report also argues that the “nimby” lobby has too much influence over the planning process and poorly housed residents who stand to gain from approval for new developments should be heard during applications.
Brendan Sarsfield, who chairs the g15 and is chief executive of Family Mosaic, said: “Politicians in particular are afraid of the nimby vote. They worry if they go off the safe ground they will be criticised. Housing should not be looked at on a five-year horizon but on a 20-year horizon like other long-term issues such as pensions.”Although the number of homes being built in London is increasing from the lows seen during the financial crisis, it is still far from the 42,000 a year Mayor Boris Johnson estimates is needed to make up the shortfall.
The boroughs with the smallest number of new homes completed in the 2013/14 financial year were Kensington & Chelsea with only 20, Harrow (80) and Kingston Upon Thames (110). The g15 report continues: “Securing planning consent for major projects should not be a lottery.”
It also said councils that refused responsible plans should be forced to cover the costs of any delays if the projects were later approved by the GLA or Planning Inspectorate.
Other proposals in the report include a national Government-run competition for ideas to speed up the pace of development; a major review of the green belt leading to “a frank debate about its purpose and quality”; and encouragement for local councils to support new homes by taking an equity stake.
A spokesman for London Councils, which represents the capital’s town halls, said: “Boroughs are committed to addressing the capital’s housing crisis. They already grant permission for around 55,000 homes per year, well above the Mayor’s housing target. However, less than half this number is completed by developers annually.”