Builder backs changes to planning laws

editorial image

A developer has warned that the Government cannot afford to bow to pressure on its controversial planning policy – despite a high profile backlash

Pressure groups, including the National Trust, and many members of the public, claim the plans to allow the green belt to be built on will lead to “damaging development”.

But according to Miller Homes, the nation’s largest privately-owned house builder, the Government is staring down the barrel of the worst housing shortage in Britain since the Second World War.

The firm claims that if ministers cave in to pressure from preservation groups, they will be agreeing to leave tens of thousands of Britons homeless by the end of the next decade.

The firm’s comments come after planning minister Greg Clarke was forced to defend in a column in the Financial Times the Con-Dem coalition’s policies on green belt development, highlighting the Government’s steadfastness in bringing forward reform to the English planning system.

In the article, the Mr Clarke wrote of his willingness to have an open dialogue with campaigners opposing the plans – but underscored that any changes to the Draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) would be ‘in wording only’ and that the Government would not back down on the overall concept to simplify English planning law in an attempt to encourage economic growth.

National sales and marketing director for Miller Homes, Sue Warwick, said: “The NPPF in its current form is the only viable option to help support sustainable growth and get Britain back on its feet.

“Cutting red tape in the planning process is imperative to helping bring forward important schemes and in light of the House Building Federation’s (HBF) warning about an impending critical housing shortage in England, it would serve the Government and its opposers well to remember that we can’t address such issues without making significant changes to the current system.”

The HBF’s latest Housing Pipeline report – which can bee read at www.hbf.co.uk – said there were 25,171 residential planning permissions granted in the second quarter of 2011 – 24 per cent fewer than the previous quarter, and 23 per cent fewer than the previous year. Figures from 2010 also showed a sustained slump in the number of residential planning permissions.

Sue said: “With 60,000 new homes required per quarter to meet the current shortfall in demand, it is plain to see where our problems lie.

“Planning policy is in desperate need of an overhaul, particularly in the current climate, where housing demand outstrips supply.

“Not only will the new framework help provide positive steps towards resolving the housing shortage, it will help to keep property prices affordable by freeing up supply through increasing demand.

“Furthermore, the framework has the potential to create further jobs in the construction industry and encourage wider economic growth in the process. It’s a no-brainer. But the Government must act quickly.

“The bodies opposing the plans need to think about the bigger picture. It is important to protect countryside – in fact, the NPPF stipulates that developers should do just that – but a balance must be found to both preserve the countryside whilst providing the population with access to affordable homes.”

Miller Homes has been a fierce advocate of helping new buyers on to the property ladder and has put a wide range of purchase incentives in place to enable more people to become homeowners.

Sue concludes: “Everybody deserves to own their own home – it is an ingrained tradition in the British psyche and we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations are able to afford a place to call their own.

“We try our level best to help feed the appetite the people in this country still have to be homeowners. But if policy doesn’t favour development in the longer term, our job will become nearly impossible and we will end up not only facing a housing crisis, but a national identity crisis to boot.”