Today we’ve released a briefing, in association with the Home Builders Federation and the Federation of Master Builders, designed to highlight a number of constructive ideas which would enable our respective members to overcome issues in the planning system. The paper has been shared with those Cabinet Secretaries who can influence the way we work, as well as with key individuals at Welsh Government, the WLGA and other related bodies.
We’re clear that, in order to meet our target of 20,000 homes, agreed as part of CHC’s pact with Welsh Government and WLGA, our members need to be able to develop homes swiftly and without unnecessary impediments. Our briefing has been written based on the ideas that our members have provided as to how we can overcome some of the issues in the system.
Take land for example: to quote one of our members’ input for this paper, ‘for housing to be affordable for the people living in it, it has to be affordable to develop it’, so the ability of our members to be able to access land at an affordable rate is critical. Members’ experiences have varied on this issue, with some telling us that they’d faced flat refusal from local authorities to consider alternatives to the achievement of maximum financial valuation. The recommendations we provide on this point include the suggestion that the social value that public sector land can achieve should be taken into consideration when setting a price for its sale. Currently, members tell us, Estates teams in local authorities are under pressure to deliver maximum financial returns for land sales, which can mean housing associations being priced out and the social value which they could provide (by, for example, tackling anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods in which they own property, providing access to training for their residents, or, indeed, building to a regulated minimum quality standard) being lost. By introducing a measure by which social value is recognised, our members would be better able to compete, leading to increased numbers of social homes provided.
Elsewhere in the paper there are constructive approaches to a variety of major issues, from concerns about how Section 106 arrangements are holding HAs back (we are calling for more consistency and for HAs to be involved at a much earlier stage in the process) to the fundamental issue of a lack of capacity within local authority planning teams, who have borne the brunt of austerity, losing an estimated 53% of capacity.
CHC and our partners will use the briefing to inform future discussions around the planning and land acquisition systems, with an eye on forthcoming revisions to Planning Policy Wales and in the knowledge that by constructively addressing the major blockers in the current way of working, we can accelerate the achievement of the 20,000 home target.