Chancellor George Osborne announced an “urban planning revolution” to protect the greenbelt and promote house-building on brownfield sites in his annual Mansion House speech to the Corporation of the City of London.
George Osborne said that £500m had been earmarked to accelerate urban house building through the planning system. The initiative will deliver 200,000 new homes by 2020 while also protecting the greenbelt. He said: “We need to see a lot more homes being built in Britain. The growing demand for housing has to be met by growing supply. We’ve got the biggest programme of new social housing in a generation; we’re regenerating the worst of our housing estates; and we’ve got the first garden city for almost a century underway in Ebbsfleet. Now we need to do more, much more.”
In an attempt to appease the heartland of Conservative voters who are not keen on development of the countryside, Osborne added: “We have beautiful landscapes, and they too are part of the inheritance of the next generation. To preserve them, we must make other compromises. If we want to limit development on important green spaces, we have to remove all the obstacles that remain to development on brownfield sites. Today we do that with these radical steps. Councils will be required to put local development orders on over 90% of brownfield sites that are suitable for housing. This urban planning revolution will mean that in effect development on these sites will be pre-approved – local authorities will be able to specify the type of housing, not whether there is housing. And it will mean planning permission for up to 200,000 new homes – while at the same time protecting our green spaces.”
Mr Osborne has entered into discussions with Boris Johnson Mayor of London, to work out plans for 20 new housing zones on brownfield land across London, promoting the building of thousands of new homes in the capital. He said: “And we’ll take the same approach in the rest of the country; with half a billion pounds of financial assistance in total set aside to make it work.” The new housing zones on brownfield land in London will benefit from £400 million funding from the Government [taxpayers] and the Greater London Authority. There will be £200 million of additional Government funding available for 10 zones outside of London.
He used his speech to distance himself from the overheating housing market and is giving the Bank of England powers to intervene if it fears mortgage lenders are being too cavalier.
“If the Bank of England thinks some borrowers are being offered excessive amounts of debt, they can limit the proportion of high loan to income mortgages each bank can lend, or even ban all new lending above a specific loan to income ratio. And if they really think a dangerous housing bubble is developing, they will be able to impose similar caps on loan to value ratios – as they do in places like Hong Kong”
The news of Osborne’s annoucement imposing a requirement on local authorities to put local development orders on over 90% of brownfield sites that are suitable for housing was unsurprisingly, welcomed by the house building fraternity.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said the announcement will allow house builders to start new sites much more quickly. “Two of the biggest barriers to brownfield housing development are the costs of bringing sites into production, and the long delays, sometimes years, house builders can face obtaining an implementable planning permission.”.
The House Builders Association (HBA), a division of the National Federation of Builders said that the focus on funding for brownfield remediation across the country would support the viability of previously hard to develop sites.
So yet another coalition Government gift for house builders – this time using taxpayer’s money to clean up and make viable contaminated brownfield land so house builders can profit more quickly! When will it end Mr Osborne?