Slum warning over housing plan

Clive Betts MP
Clive Betts MP
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PLANS to speed up the delivery of new homes as part of wider drive to increase UK productivity risk alienating communities and creating the slums of the future, Ministers have been warned.

The Government was accused of abandoning its commitment to localism with its attempts to streamline the planning process.

Proposals include an automatic permission for developers to build on brownfield sites, beefed-up compulsory purchase powers to seize derelict sites for housing and a fast-track procedure to speed up major infrastructure projects.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, who chairs the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “These moves appear to be a threat to the ability of local people to have their say on development in their area.

“They also fail to spell out how we can ensure development is supported by the necessary infrastructure, such as parks and affordable housing. It is only by considering these infrastructure needs that development can ever be genuinely sustainable.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “Taken together, the measures announced by the Chancellor today further deregulate planning and risk marginalising communities.

“The decision to give automatic planning permission to sites on brownfield land seriously undermines the ability for genuine place-making, and risks creating the slums of the future.

“After all, without planning how can we bring forward high-quality new communities which are accessible, affordable and sustainable?”

As part of a raft of measures aimed at increase rural productivity, the Government is proposing to make it easier to turn agricultural buildings into houses.

Dorothy Fairburn, regional director for the Country Land and Business Association, said: “Delivery of rural housing has been woeful. The review of the threshold for agricultural buildings to convert to residential must be significant if it is to really make a difference.

“The inclusion of this review in the Productivity Plan highlights that Government is prepared to circumvent obstructive planning authorities to support appropriate delivery of rural homes.”

The housing proposals were included in Government’s Fixing the Foundations report on improving productivity which also included measures to streamlining skills training and investing in infrastructure.

Launching the report with a speech in Birmingham, Business Secretary Sajid Javid said Britain’s productivity was “well below” its potential, with a UK worker taking five days to produce what a German worker can deliver in four.

The UK had long been “incapable of building enough homes to keep up with growing demand”, while road congestion was so bad that Britain could be losing more than 100 million working days to traffic jams by 2040.

Boosting productivity was the “economic challenge of our age”, and cracking the problem would lead to higher standards of living, said Mr Javid, adding: “If we could match the USA for productivity, it would boost our GDP by 31 per cent – that’s equivalent to £21,000 a year for every household in the UK.”

But Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Shabana Mahmood, described the report as “a patchwork of existing schemes rather than a substantial reform”

“Working people need delivery, not more empty promises,” she added.