Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:56 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Dr Ellis:

Development corporations are really welcome, but it is worth remembering that when you have effective planning, which links planning to delivery—that is what a development corporation does; you can really drive change—the most important thing is that their governance needs to be modernised so that they are genuinely accountable and participative. The purpose of a development corporation is to draw on what Oliver Letwin recognised in his review: the critical role of the public sector as master developer in de-risking development.

Much of the challenge in why we are not delivering the homes that we consent in the planning process is because the private sector has limited incentive to deliver beyond certain levels, based on absorption rates. Development corporations can do that. It is worth reflecting on the fact that, within 20 years of the war, we consented 33 new towns, which housed 2.8 million people and paid for themselves. That record is largely forgotten but still very powerful.

The answer is that the challenge in giving the powers solely to local authorities is that they work only when Government stand behind them. I think it is the Government’s role in housing that we need to draw out. They need to be more muscular in supporting local authorities. The experience from the locally led development corporation in north Essex illustrates that point.