The Government has brought forward the Housing and Planning Bill because it has finally woken up to this crisis – even though the collapse in house building began in 2008. Now an average house is eight times the average salary of those aged between 22 and 39. The Bill deals with Brownfield sites by enabling a route by which major planning applications may be automatically granted development rights through what is called “permission in principle” at a local plan stage. Accurately described by respected professionals such as Richard Harwood OBE QC as ‘zoning’, the devil will be in the detail. As a matter of fact there will be a further stage of technical details that have to be consented before the permission becomes extant. What strikes me is that it’s difficult to imagine that such a permission in principle ought not to include permission for the associated roads, hospitals and schools. Anything is better than waiting five years for so few occupied homes. But will it then become a plan subject to SEA, and many phases of EIA. The European legislation together with undue reliance on private sector funding mechanisms is often the counterpoint to the claims by Ministers that planning is slowing down the housing supply. Now the courts and professionals understand the parameters of that legislation, it's likely that in time, the Treasury is going to have to take responsibility for the housing crisis, rather than continuously blaming land use planners and DCLG. Furthermore, the release of large swathes of public land is unlikely to revive the fortunes and prospects of small and medium sized developers dealing with the unwieldy and underfunded local planning authorities.
Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP on the Public Accounts Committee which monitors Government spending on behalf of Parliament, said: “The Government announced in 2011 a policy to sell land for 109,500 homes and nearly five years later we have got maybe 1,800 to 2,500 homes actually built.”