Every politician claims they want more houses built in the UK. Every one of them says they want new and better houses to relieve the chronic shortage and help the young get on the housing ladder.
Indeed, the Conservatives made releasing land a central part of their strategy well before the Prime Minister called the election. So, what did they do?
Well, in one of the Government’s final acts before the start of the election purdah, the Secretary of State did the complete opposite. In one day, he issued seven recovered appeal decisions covering 805 potential new homes.
What’s more, he stopped all but one of the appeals, so that’s only 80 out of the total 805 new homes. Adding insult to injury, the minister rejected the other appeals for all the usual reasons. What a surprise!
These are the reasons given for refusal: three of the appeals were overturned on the basis of a conflict with the local Neighbourhood Plan - even though in all the cases the local planning authority did not have a five-year housing land supply. Quite the reverse, they all had big shortfalls. It will not surprise you to know that the planning inspectors involved had recommended the appeals be approved.
Another case - also against the inspector’s recommendation- was refused because it was deemed ‘inappropriate’ development within the Green Belt. However, another appeal, also refused, did follow the inspector’s recommendation. In brief, 580 of the 725 homes which were refused planning permission had been recommended for approval by the Secretary of State’s planning inspectors. Once again, the Nimbys have won. They have won because they were able to persuade government that localism, protecting the Green Belt and conservation are more important than providing new housing for the next generation.
These cases illustrate not that NPPF is failing but that it is working and district and parish councils don’t like it. They are resorting to lobbying their MPs to get applications called-in that should never be anywhere near the SoS’s desk to circumvent policy in the hope of getting lucky and they are succeeding!
However, there is some good news to report. The latest ONS figures show housing completions were up 6% in the year to March 2017 and, more pertinently, the increase in starts is 15% higher at 162,880, a decent rise but nowhere near enough. The Conservatives are still the favourites to win the election, although it’s unlikely they will win the landslide they were hoping for. Even so, let’s hope the next government is brave enough to stick to its housing pledge for more and better housing. Cutting stamp duty would help too.