Jerry Gilbert, Director at ARK Consultancy, gives his view on the Planning for the Future consultation.
The Planning for the Future consultation document offers us “the creation of beautiful places that will stand the test of time, protect and enhance our precious environment, and support our efforts to combat climate change and bring greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050”.
Full of warm words, but clearly not a universal view judging by some of the immediate reactions which suggest it is a developer’s dinner ticket, a charter for a race to the bottom or a recipe for creating the slums of the future.
Current planning policy is inconsistent and confusing and undoubtedly in need of reform. However, reforms dominated by the drive for volume will overshadow other important socio-economic factors.
As a consultancy operating primarily in the social housing arena, we do not see volume alone as the solution to the important issue of affordability. Normal supply and demand economics do not apply in the housing market, increasing volume will not reduce price, the numbers simply are not high enough nor are the products interchangeable. Location, location, location still dominates.
“The race for volume alone will not resolve affordability nor bridge the generation divide”
The adjustment to the infrastructure levy holds out the prospect of the government being “more ambitious for affordable housing provided through planning gain and ensuring that the infrastructure levy allows local authorities to secure more ‘on site’ provision”.
However, this is at the expense of S106 negotiations and lifting of the threshold on the number of homes per site that trigger an affordable housing requirement.
Affordability in the consultation document seems to be predicated on home ownership and discounting market value in various guises. Scant, if any, mention is made of affordable rent.
Grant interventions from the government are to be welcomed, but these must be facilitated through the planning system with planning reforms underpinning the ability of small-to-medium social landlords to deliver truly affordable homes.
The race for volume alone will not resolve affordability nor bridge the generation divide. Property needs to be in the right place, of the right type, tenure, and at the right price, and whether designating zones as “growth, renewal, and protected” will achieve that remains to be seen.
Image: Jerry Gilbert, Director, ARK Consultancy