Housing forum

Group calls for unelected officials to make planning decisions

A group of housing professionals believe some planning decisions should not be made by elected officials.

The Housing Forum believes politics should be taken out of housing and is calling for all planning applications with fewer than 250 homes to be determined by planning officers rather than councillors.

The suggestion comes as part of the pan-industry group’s 10-point plan to solve the housing supply crisis.

Stephen Teagle, chief executive of partnerships and regeneration at Galliford Try and deputy chairman of the Housing Forum, said that although the government’s housing white paper was welcomed, the Housing Forum’s report would take that ambition further.

“We have to recognise as an industry that the government’s renewed focus on housing supply presents an opportunity for the sector to push for the kind of change that can make a real difference.

“The fact that the scale of the problem has been recognised by Whitehall means we now have a unique chance to open up the debate and put forward novel and bold ideas, like the ones within this report, that we genuinely believe can translate into more homes for communities around the country.”

The Housing Forum’s 10 solutions for boosting housing supply are:

1. Housing should be depoliticised. Take party politics out of housing strategy and delivery by creating cross-party housing groups and removing elected members from decision making on some planning applications.

2. Government to appoint a housing minister to the cabinet and directly commission new homes on public sector land.

3. All local authorities must become more proactive leaders of housing supply. The housing sector needs all local members and council officers to capitalise on this position and drive housing supply.

4. Create a single voice for the housing industry. A single message delivered by a new housing industry body would enable clear, powerful and effective communication with government.

5. Government and industry to implement the farmer review’s call for modernisation of housebuilding skills and technology to address the looming skills crisis.

6. Local authorities should be encouraged to sell land by judging potential buyers against ‘best value’ factors, including the speed of delivery of new homes.

7. Central and local government to revise the planning system so it favours increased supply, including PRS/build for rent and encourages the allocation of sites of different sizes so as to attract interest from a range of builders.

8. Government to agree a long-term, large-scale capital investment plan for housing for the next 10 years.

9. Give local authorities the financial mechanisms to directly commission new housing and greater freedom for risk sharing with the private sector.

10. Create a centre of excellence for procurement expertise for use across the sector.

Shelagh Grant, chief executive of the Housing Forum, said it needed to lift housing output to levels not seen since the late 1970s and that required bold action and brave decisions.

“If the housing supply is truly to be turned on to full, then still more needs to be done to overcome the challenges that exist in the market and create a benign and sustainable environment for housebuilding.

We appreciate that some of our solutions are radical departures from the status quo.

“But we have been tinkering at the edges for too long.”

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