Some admission from sacked Alex Half Baked Morton one of the key architects of the NPPF
The sanction of the Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development is simply inadequate to get them [housebuilders] to increase output and is largely a way for developers to capture large greenfield sites (it also basically repeats a 1980s failure termed ‘planning by appeal’).
Despite the debates around Right to Buy, Starter Homes, and sale of high value assets, the most important reforms underway since 2015 were a low-key battle to reform the system so that:
- Councils were assessed against a delivery test. Each council would be required to deliver enough homes to meet housing need.
- Up to date local plans would move from 500 pages of verbiage and policies on everything from climate change to an ageing society, and instead focus on delivery of homes – with infrastructure, design and political engagement prioritised.
- Central Government would “put plans in place in consultation with local people” in areas without an up to date local plan that failed to deliver. It was hoped in Number 10/the Treasury this could be rolled out if we were able to find a way to do this in a politically acceptable fashion.
There were moves around ‘direct commissioning’ (opposed by parts of the Treasury) so that councils could control the land market themselves and, without taking on balance sheet risk directly, allocate land to developers in return for agreement to build at a set rate.
These reforms were not particularly supported by the sector or within DCLG, despite help from some good officials and ministers, (particularly Brandon Lewis). DCLG was far too focused on mayors (despite clear evidence that London’s mayor, who has extensive housing powers, had not stopped London seeing the biggest housing failure of all). Against all the headwinds and vested interests the agenda set out above barely moved – much like housing numbers.