Housing White Paper ‘Protections for the green belt are the same as in the manifesto’

All it said was ‘protect the Green Belt’ as I said at time the weakest manifesto conservative commitment ever on this.

Telegraph

Developers will be ordered to use planning permission or lose it under government plans to speed up the building of hundreds of thousands of new homes.

Ministers will next week publish proposals encouraging developers to build on plots more quickly rather than sit on land which has already been earmarked for new properties.

The Tories have promised to build one million new homes by 2020, but construction rates are running at below the level to hit that target.

Theresa May has made building more cheap affordable homes one of the cornerstones of her premiership and chairs the Cabinet committee to drive the policy personally.

However, protection for the green belt will not be watered down as ministers do not want to provoke a war with Tory councils, it is understood.

 

The Housing White Paper will target car parks near railway stations for new homes, will reserve sites for new prefabricated homes which are quicker to build and will allow taller homes to be built.

It is also expected to include measures to encourage smaller construction firms to break the stranglehold of the large housebuilders.

However, there will be no new threat to the green belt. One Government source said: “Protections for the green belt are the same as in the manifesto. There are no fears about the green belt.”

The White Paper – which is expected to be published on Tuesday – is anticipated to include new proposals to require developers to complete homes more quickly.

Currently builders lose planning permissions after three years unless work has started. However, they can maintain planning permissions on sites simply by “digging a trench”, sources said. This means that more than 700,000 homes which have been granted planning permission since 2006 are yet to be built.

Under the new plans permission would be linked to the completion of homes by certain dates, rather than the starting of work.

Developers could have to build quotas of homes by set deadlines as a condition of receiving the planning permission, or be let off paying for new local roads, bridges and community halls – so called Section 106 agreements – if they complete the new homes more quickly.

A report last year by Civitas, a think-tank, disclosed how developers and landowners used a controversial relaxation of planning rules in 2012 to hoard planning permits rather than build more homes.

More than two million planning permits were issued between 2006 and 2015 – a rate which would be enough to build an average of 204,000 new homes a year but foundations were only laid on 1.3 million of them

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said councils had approved more than 200,000 homes a year for the past four years, and yet last year there were still only 164,000 new-build completions.

He said: “This would be a really bold step by ministers and suggests they are not prepared to tiptoe around developers anymore – for too long planning permissions have been granted with no obligation to build.

“This has meant that landowners and developers have been able to secure huge windfalls and then maximise their profits still further by drip-feeding new homes into the market at the highest prices they can.”

Campaigners welcomed the plans. Rick Hebditch,a spokesman forthe National Trust, said: “There are positive signs that the Government has shifted away from blaming the planning system for housing problems.

“People need homes but we need a well-resourced planning system to ensure they’re good quality and in the right places.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Too few homes are being built, but this isn’t because of a failure of the planning system or a lack of land.

“It is because the big builders would rather build slowly on greenfield land than build quickly on the many suitable brownfield sites across the country.

“It is good that ministers understand this and are willing to put some pressure on developers to raise their game.”

Alex Morton, a former housing and planning adviser to David Cameron when he was prime minister, said: “Tory MPs and councillors get angry when they see permissions going up but housing starts rising slowly. If done this must be implemented sensitively.”

Steve Turner, a spokesman for the Home Builders’ Federation, said it was sensible to tie in the interests of the builders and local authorities when planning permission was granted.

This would stop local authorities granting planning permissions for too many homes on smaller sites to hit housing targets set by central Government.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, added: “We look forward to seeing more detail on this and welcome measures to speed up build-out rates in the private sector.

“The sooner the homes the nation needs are built the better but this must not be at the expense of affordable housing.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve been clear that house builders need to deliver more homes, and our White Paper due out shortly will set out clearly our plans to increase build out rates.”

At the Conservative party conference four months ago, Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, said he would take action to force big housing companies to build more homes more quickly.

He said: “The big developers must release their stranglehold on supply. It’s time to stop sitting on land banks and stop delaying build-out. The homebuyers must come first”.

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