Housing has become political – but aren’t political decisions often bad ones?


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Sir Oliver is still working on his analysis of what is seen as a 'problem' and a report is due in June for comment by 'interested parties and experts' and recommendations for change will be formulated for a final report to be published in time for the Autumn Budget, writes Joe Pattinson, from Newbury New Homes.

Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes. Pic: www.newburynewhomes.co.uk

Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes. Pic: www.newburynewhomes.co.uk

He accepts that there is a difference between the grant of an outline planning permission and an implementable consent, but says nothing about the delays between the two, which can often take a year or more to resolve. It appears unlikely that that this aspect of the process will be given the importance that many in the industry think it should have with his focus on delays during the 'build out' stage, after an implementable consent has been obtained.

He is looking at the impact of the availability of capital, labour and materials to the build out stage. But it is what he calls the 'absorption rate' that seems to concern him. This rate refers to the speed at which housing can be sold into the local market without materially disturbing the market price. He wants to encourage greater competition amongst house builders on large sites. However if it does not 'disturb' the market price then what is the point? Under discussion is a greater range of products and tenures with less reliance on large sites in the planning process generally. The National Planning Policy Framework published previously, had suggested a requirement for at least 20 per cent of sites to be of less than half a hectare, which is about 1.25 acres. Well, I love it when a sinner repents, but I have been suggesting this for a very long time.

In previous articles I have reported that it was changes by central government (Labour) that led to the introduction off the Greater Norwich Planning Partnership, and similar strategies across the country bringing local planning authorities together, in order to promote larger sites. Larger sites take much longer to build out. Previously I suggested that pretty much every village, large or small could deliver 10 or 20 homes within two years (that is sites of less than half a hectare) and that these new homes would have a positive impact on the sustainability of shops, small schools, pubs and important local community resources like sports teams, societies and churches .

All governments have made populist interventions in the property market. Who can forget (all of us?) how the Home Information Pack (HIP) was going to speed up conveyancing, do away with gazumping and make moving house so much easier. Introduced in 2004, implemented in 2007, suspended in 2010 and repealed in 2011, having cost any number of companies, set up to provide them, a small fortune. Then there was the Code for Sustainable Homes, working towards 'code level 6' which would have resulted in zero CO2 emissions but would have also added tens of thousands of costs to the average home. Also quietly dropped!

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Housing has become political and as we have seen political decisions are often bad ones, but please let Sir Oliver know your thoughts, especially if you don't agree with Sajid Javid, the housing minister, and his comments about NIMBYS.

In the meantime Newbury New Homes are continuing to look for sites for up to 100 homes in and around Norfolk that we can deliver as soon as possible. Drop me a line at joe.pattinson@newburynewhomes.co.uk

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Newbury New Homes has sponsored this column. You can contact them on 01603 520000. www.newburynewhomes.co.uk

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