Anyone who follows the news should be aware that the UK is in the midst of a housing crisis. With political debates, media coverage and declarations from the Prime Minister that more homes need to be built, its little wonder that there is so much disagreement as to the potential ‘fix’.
But what does this mean for the planning profession, well aside from being blamed as one of the causes for the housing shortage through an overburdened bureaucratic process, changes are currently being consulted on in terms of national policy (the National Planning Policy Framework).
Planners had the radical and much needed change to national policy in 2012 when 1,000 pages of planning policy were consolidated into a single document. This ‘update’ of national policy comes after much litigation on interpretation and wrangling on whether the document goes far enough to effectively tackle the inequalities in housing.
The question on everyone’s lips: Is the proposed national policy change going to boost the supply of housing? I sincerely hope so, however, I can’t help looking at the proposed planning consultation and think that this just scratches the surface, we know the housing market is failing to keep pace with supply and demand, but I am doubtful that the changes in policy will be enough.
Whilst changes to planning policy wording are being picked over and debated by both Local Authority Planners and Private Practice Planners alike its importance to remember that planning first and foremost is about ‘people and places’ and whilst there are different planning roles and sectors the housing crisis isn’t just about changing wording it’s about action.
Whilst the proposed policy changes are a step in the right direction more needs to be done to assist the planning process, such as ensuring Local Planning Authorities have enough resources to efficiently and effectively deal with applications and by speeding up the decision making process, which also applies to the Planning Inspectorate in dealing with planning appeals. Reducing the red tape and properly resourcing to ensure we have a system which doesn’t put overly prescriptive barriers to development will assist in being proactive rather than reactive.
Inevitably the need to boost housing will not be welcomed by all, however the message is clear Britain needs to build more homes.