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High quality, well designed homes - that's what the country needs

Wednesday 06 December 2017

In a written statement that was released on Monday, the Minister for Housing and Planning, set out a package of measures to boost local authority planning capacity, and support councils to take a proactive role in the planning and delivery of new communities.

It was clear from the Housing White Paper that fixing Britain's broken housing market requires solutions that look to the long-term. A boost in planning capacity to enable strategic development across local authority boundaries; support for local authorities to take a proactive role in planning for high-quality and scale; and encouragement for local authority ambition and leadership in the delivery of new communities, not just new housing estates.

In his statement, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma confirmed he will be:

  • inviting bids from local authorities and third sector organisations to a £25 million Planning Delivery Fund to support joint working, quality and innovation;
  • allocating £3 million of capacity funding to the fourteen garden villages in our programme; and,
  • publishing a consultation of Regulations which will enable the creation of locally led New Town Development Corporations, as an effective vehicle for the delivery of new garden towns.

What is the Planning Delivery Fund?

The £25 million Planning Delivery Fund, which is now open for bids, was first announced back in February as part of the Housing White Paper to support ambitious local authorities in areas of high housing need to plan for new homes and infrastructure.

As well as providing local planning authorities with the skills, capacity and capability they need to deliver high quality housing growth at scale, the fund will also be an aid to implementing wider planning reforms set out by Government - with the overall aim to support the type of joint working and strategic planning that has been demonstrated in Oxfordshire.

In the Housing White Paper, it was announced that nationally set planning fees were to increase to 20 per cent. Although this move will partially address the issue of planning department funds, Sharma stated that it does not go far enough to ensure local authorities are equipped with the appropriate resources, particularly in specialist areas such as design. 

The Government therefore is initially opening up £11 million of the Planning Delivery Fund to councils, for the financial years 2017/18 to 2018/19, to support and encourage:

  • more and better joint working, across local authority boundaries, ensuring that there are the skills and capacity where needed to plan strategically for housing growth, and to man age delivery of new homes and infrastructure;
  • a step change in design quality of new development, as well as design advice and support to local authorities delivering growth; and,
  • innovation in the planning system, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes and enable the delivery of more high quality homes.

Accordingly, bids are invited for awards from three dedicated funding streams: a Joint Working Fund, a Design Quality Fund, and an Innovation Fund. A copy of the prospectus, including the funding criteria and how to submit a bid can be found here.

Garden villages, towns and cities

The Government are currently supporting twenty-four locally-led garden cities, towns and villages across England to be exemplars of high quality, good design and best practice. Together they have the potential for approximately 220,000 homes.

Sharma reiterated that Government support has helped foster ambition and innovation, and accelerated the pace of delivery with over 10,000 new homes having now been started. £16 million of capacity funding has been allocated to date, including an additional £2.5 million to the garden towns. A further £3 million is also being allocated to the fourteen garden villages to fund dedicated staff, master-planning and other studies and assessments that are key to successful, high quality delivery.

In the Budget it was announced that the Government would support the delivery of another five locally led new garden towns, bringing together public and private capital and using appropriate delivery vehicles such as development corporations. A prospectus which is due in the Spring will invite expressions of interest in ambitious, locally supported proposals for high quality new garden communities at scale. Sharma confirmed that the Government will not be limited to supporting just five new garden communities, but will look to support as many as they can around the country.

The minister did not propose any particular delivery model, but instead said the Governments role was to facilitate local authority leadership and ambition.

He went on to recap the Housing White Paper's commitment to legislation, to enable the creation of New Town Development Corporations, overseen by the local authority or authorities covering the area proposed for the new garden community, rather than by the Secretary of State. As bodies with statutory objectives focussed on the development of the new town and with significant independence, the Government will consider that New Town Development Corporations are well placed to manage complex co-ordination challenges across local authority boundaries and create long term planning and investment confidence, where local authorities consider these are the right delivery vehicle.

Section 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 enables the Secretary of State, through an affirmative resolution statutory instrument, to appoint one or more local authorities to oversee the development and process of regulation of a new town by a New Town Development Corporation.

What's next?

The Government are now consulting on draft Regulation, which closes on 2 January 2018. Their focus is on ensuring they maximise the transfer of oversight functions from the Secretary of State to the local authority or authorities and the independence of the Development Corporation, and support quality and long-term stewardship within the garden community.

Respond to the consultation