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Letter: Why Javid is wrong to say that older homeowners are blocking the planning system

Monday, 23 October 2017 12:58

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times 19 October 2017


Politicians are out of touch.

Speaking at the recent Conservative Party Conference, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said that his party had for too long allowed older people with large homes to determine housing policy.

According to Mr Javid these homeowners are NIMBYs, who had used planning policies (the NPPF) to prevent the building of houses on countryside near to their homes and that they were responsible for the housing crisis and, by implication, the acute shortage of affordable homes.

However, Mr Javid’s explanation of the housing shortage is a false and misleading narrative. In reality, the NPPF has enabled developers to repeatedly override the objections of local authorities and local people by securing permissions at appeal, to build on fields not allocated for development in local plans. This has been the experience of communities over much of Sussex.

Moreover, a study by Civitas, ‘Planning approvals vs Housebuilding activity, 2006-2015’, found that of the 2,035,835 new homes granted permission by local authorities in England over the period, only 1,261,350 had been started and that this huge shortfall had accumulated because house-builders were hoarding permissions in order to push-up house prices and profits.

In addition, a study of 166 local authorities conducted by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and presented by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) in its report ‘Homes for All’, May 2016, found that 61% of these Councils believed that the NPPF’s viability test had hindered their ability to "secure sufficient social and affordable housing to meet local needs".

It was the ‘viability’ test that earlier this year enabled the Liberty Property Trust to overturn the HDPF policy requirement for 35% (963) affordable homes for its development North of Horsham (2,750 new homes) and to deliver instead 495 (18%) affordable homes, which is a substantial reduction.

That Mr Javid’s false and misleading explanation of the nation’s housing shortage went unchallenged at the Conference shows that politicians are out of touch with the reality - that developers will reduce build rates when it suits them in order to maintain profit margins and that the NPPF’s ‘viability’ test is hindering the ability of councils to "secure sufficient social and affordable housing to meet local needs". What say our MPs Nick Herbert and Jeremy Quinn?

Yours faithfully,

Dr Roger F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex

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