Boris has announced planning reform, which will allow developers to bypass normal planning rules in order to build new homes and hospitals. LibDems say this is completely the wrong way to do it. It shows they are not serious about solving current crises. The Local Government Association (led by Conservatives) says there is planning permission for 1 million houses and developers are not building them. The developers constantly blame planning rules, but they have been wrong on this for at least ten years and they use the system for unethical financial advantage. One of the biggest developers is Persimmons, who have behaved badly in our own locality and their CEO gave himself a massive pay rise recently.
Government keeps talking about helping people to get on the housing ladder, hence temporary cuts to stamp duty, but these and other Conservative measures only help those who have money and cause house prices to go on rising. One of the key ingredients to solve the housing crisis is social housing to rent and the little that Theresa May did to allow councils to borrow was nowhere near enough. We are actually continuing to loose some social housing. LibDems say we should be building 100,000 social houses a year and work towards a total annual housing target (including affordable and luxury) of 300,000 a year by 2024.
Locally, our Conservative Borough Council announced last year they were working with Aspire Housing to build affordable homes, but that was for sale; no social housing included. The local plan is so long overdue that two years ago government threatened stepping in and making a plan of their own. We LibDems sent in our detailed comments about a proposed local plan in February 2018 and we have still not had a reply.
Housing is a major factor in people’s living standards and contributes not only to inequality and unfairness for those less well off, it causes evictions and lack of supply when landlords refuse to accommodate people on benefits and housing benefit is a drain on the public purse.
My experience as a Borough Councillor taught me that improvements are needed in planning, but they require improved staffing and speed of process. Developers already have the upper hand, especially here in Newcastle, where there is no local plan and already some major developments have gone ahead in the wrong places, in spite of the planning authority’s opposition.