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Planning for the Future

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:19 am on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 11:19 am, 12th March 2020

I would like to make a statement expanding on the housing measures set out in yesterday’s Budget. I have deposited a document in the Library setting out our vision for the future of the planning system.

A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is about security, a stake in our society and investing for our future. The expansion of home ownership over the 20th century created a fairer Britain, with prosperity and opportunity spread more evenly. That is why this Government believe in supporting people who are working hard to own their own home, and ensuring that young people and future generations have the same opportunities as those who came before them.

We are making progress. Last year, we built over 241,000 homes—more new homes than at any point in the last 30 years—taking the total delivered since 2010 to 1.5 million. The proportion of young homeowners has increased, after declining for more than a decade. Yet a great deal more is required to be done. Many are still trapped paying high rents and struggling to save for a deposit. Home ownership seems like a dream that remains out of reach. Our children should be able to put down roots in the places where they grew up, but the simple truth is that too many will continue to be priced out if we do not build many more homes and take the action now that is required to remove barriers to people getting on to the housing ladder.

To achieve this, the Government are prepared to take bold action across the board. We will be introducing a building safety Bill to bring about the biggest change in building safety for a generation, and a renters reform Bill to provide greater stability to those who rent. We will be making sure that those in social homes will be treated with the dignity and the respect that they deserve through our social housing White Paper. We will be working hard to end rough sleeping. We will be bringing forward an ambitious planning White Paper in the spring to create a planning system that is truly fit for the 21st century—a planning system that supports the delivery of the number of homes we need as a country, but homes that local people want to live in, with more beautiful, safer and greener communities.

The way we work and live has changed beyond recognition since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. The planning system has not kept pace. We intend to change this, so we will be reviewing our approach to planning to ensure that our system enables more homes to come forward in the places that people most want to live, with jobs, transport links and other amenities on their doorstep. This means making the best use of land and existing transport infrastructure.

To that end, I am announcing that we will review the formula for calculating local housing need, taking a fresh approach that means building more homes, but also encouraging greater building in urban areas. We will make the most of our transport hubs, and I am announcing a call for proposals to invite innovative solutions for building housing above and around stations. We will be backing brownfield sites for development, and we will work with ambitious mayors and councils of all political persuasions in all parts of the country. We will be beginning by investing £400 million to regenerate brownfield sites across the country, and we are launching a new national brownfield sites map so that anyone—member of the public, entrepreneur or local authority—can understand where those sites are.

Local authorities need to play their part through their local plans. Today, I am setting a deadline of December 2023 for all local plans to be in place, before the Government will have to intervene. In addition, in the coming months, through the White Paper, we will lay the foundations for a modern, dramatically accelerated planning system. This will be a digital planning system that harnesses technology for the first time, and one where it is far easier for local communities to play a real role in the decisions that affect them, shortening and simplifying the plan-making process. As part of that, we will reform planning fees and link them to performance to create a world-class and properly resourced planning service. We will explore the use of tools such as zoning, and for the first time we will make clear who actually owns land across the country, by requiring complete transparency on land options. Where permissions are granted, we will bring forward proposals to ensure that they are turned into homes more quickly.

We are not waiting for the White Paper to begin our actions. We are encouraging local communities to take innovative routes to meet housing needs in their areas through new planning freedoms, and we are also introducing the freedom to build upwards on existing buildings. Today I am announcing a new right to allow vacant, commercial, industrial and residential blocks to be demolished and replaced with well-designed, new residential units that meet high-quality standards, including on new natural light standards. We are granting permission to get building across the country.

We know that we need to deliver at scale, and at a pace that we have not seen in recent years, and yesterday’s Budget set out that those vital planning changes will be underpinned by serious additional investment. The £12 billion that we are putting into affordable homes represents the biggest cash investment in the sector for a decade. We are finalising details for a new affordable homes programme, which will deliver homes for social rent, as well as for affordable rent, shared ownership and supported housing. There will be a route to ownership for all, regardless of the tenure at which people begin.

We are taking an infrastructure-first approach and yesterday £1.1 billion was allocated to build new communities and unlock 70,000 new homes in total. That is more than £4 billion invested through the housing infrastructure fund. Building on that, we will introduce a new long-term flexible single housing infrastructure fund of at least £10 billion.

I have made safety a personal priority of mine since I became Secretary of State last year. With that in mind, the Government are bringing forward the most important improvements to our building safety regime in a generation, and I am pleased that, as the Chancellor set out yesterday, in addition to the £600 million already made available, there will be an extra £1 billion to make buildings in the social and private sectors safe. I am pleased that in the private sector that investment will benefit leaseholders, many of whom I met recently, and I fully appreciate the pain and stress that they have been through by feeling trapped in their homes.

In line with our commitment to end rough sleeping, we are putting in more than £640 million over this Parliament for new “move on” accommodation, and vital support for substance misuse services. That work will be spearheaded by my Department, and by the new and urgent review I have set up, which is led by Dame Louise Casey.

I am also mindful of our huge responsibility to future generations, and to ensuring that as we build more, we also build better. That is why I will be updating the national planning policy framework to embed the principles of good design and place making. As recommended in the recent report by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, we will introduce a “fast track for beauty” and mandate that tree-lined streets should be the norm in this country in future.

We are backing a broader green revolution, including plans to establish a net-zero development in Toton in the east midlands, which I hope will be one of Europe’s most exciting new environmentally sustainable communities. We are seeking to establish similarly high-quality and environmentally sustainable communities through up to four new development corporations in the Oxford to Cambridge arc: around Bedford, St Neots and Sandy, Cambourne, and near Cambridge.

We should seize this opportunity to consider how the built and natural environments can work together more harmoniously, and in that spirit, I will be reviewing our policy to prevent building in areas of high flood risk. Given the recent devastation suffered by so many of our communities, we are putting an extra £5.2 billion into flood defences.

The real work begins today. Over the spring and the summer, I will work with local authorities, SME housebuilders and larger developers, local groups and, I hope, Members from all parts of the House. Our mission is clear: we will build more homes, we will help more people on to the housing ladder, and we will do our duty to future generations by ensuring that those homes are built in a way that is beautiful and sustainable, creating a legacy of which we can all be proud. That is what it means to level up and to unite our country. I commend this statement to the House.