New home builds may affect prices

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Plans for thousands of new homes in the region could dampen property prices - if concentrated in larger developments. That was the prediction of a conference held in Norwich yesterday attended by developers, planners and council officials looking at the impact of the East of England plan in the region.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Plans for thousands of new homes in the region could dampen property prices - if concentrated in larger developments.

That was the prediction of a conference held in Norwich yesterday attended by developers, planners and council officials looking at the impact of the East of England plan in the region.

Inspectors last month said an extra 27,500 homes should be built in the region - taking the total to 505,500 by 2021 and suggested focussing on key development areas including Norwich and Thetford to deliver many of the new dwellings.

Yolande Barnes, director and head of research at Savills, said: "There is a strong view coming out from places like Docklands that supply does mean lower prices, but if it's delivered piecemeal it will probably have a lower effect.

"The idea is to create denser developments rather than edge of town sprawl - that does have value implications. I think we are going to see much more subdued growth, but that's part of the larger economic forces of low interest and low inflation rates."

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On Monday homeless charity Shelter warned that the plan would do nothing to create more affordable homes.

And Lee Newlyn, a partner at Barton Willmore, told the conference that there was still not enough houses contained in the plan to create the sort of supply to drive down prices.

And he feared the replacement of deputy prime minister by Ruth Kelly in the renamed Department for Communities and Local Government could see a weakening of the housing agenda.

"We've lost two big hitters in Prescott and David Milliband," he said. "I'm uncertain what Kelly will bring to it. It's a concern in the housing industry that they are not big hitters.

"What surprises me about the report is the lack of rigorous analysis," he added. "I'm disappointed that they've come up with strategic locations for growth, but even plans for 7,000 dwellings in North East Norwich have been withdrawn."

The conference, organised by Norwich-based civil and structural engineering consultant TA Millard at the Great Hospital, heard that the plan removed any onus from the government to provide funding for the transport links and other infrastructure needed to support the new homes.

Terry Millard, group chairman, TA Millard Ltd said there should be better working together between planners, councils and developers to make a case for better infrastructure funding.

"The report is warning us that we are in a weak position in terms of getting a realistic share of the funding from central government," he said. "In the past they have operated on a divide and rule model. If we were to overcome our prejudices and work in a co-ordinated way then we stand a chance of doing something."