On 7 February 2017, the Department for Communities and Local Government (“DCLG”) published its much trumpeted and long awaited Housing White Paper, together with a flurry of associated documents. The White Paper is called “Fixing our broken housing market” and it accepts the existence of a housing crisis in emphatic terms: our “broken” housing market is, the Prime Minister tells us in her Foreword, one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today. And the White Paper is clear that there is a “moral duty” for everyone involved in politics and the housing industry to tackle the problem.
The underlying issue is simple: for decades, there has been an undersupply of new homes (since the 1970s there have been on average 160,000 new homes each year in England, but there is a broad consensus that England needs in the order of 225,000 to 275,000 or more each year to keep pace with population growth and to start to tackle historic undersupply.But tackling this undersupply has proved profoundly difficult, and although the White Paper aims for a comprehensive approach that “tackles failure at every point in the system there is much that needs to be done.
The White Paper recognises the problems of affordability and finance which hinder development, the need to promote smaller sites and smaller developers, the role of the public sector and the contribution which planning makes. Our note focuses on the planning aspects and seek to provide some initial thoughts on the difference which the proposals will make. It is important to recognise what parts of the paper are White – as steps which the government will take – and which are Green – being ideas put out for consultation. On some matters such as planning steps to encourage permissions to be built out quickly and policy making processes there is a great deal of debate to be had. James Strachan QC, Philippa Jackson and Ned Helme provide briefings on different aspects, whilst Peter Village QC looks at the measures to speed up housebuilding from the developer’s viewpoint.