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Unlock the Housing Blockers

SOUTH EAST COUNCILS NEED MORE POWERS TO UNLOCK HOMES AND TRANSPORT

South East local authorities need new powers to unlock tens of thousands of unbuilt homes and to fund more affordable housing and better infrastructure, says South East England Councils (SEEC).

SEEC’s new report ‘Unlock the housing blockers’ launched ahead of the Government’s forthcoming Housing White Paper, calls for action by Ministers to turn the South East’s unused planning permissions into homes.

In 2014-15 over 28,000 new homes were built in the South East but by March 2015 there was also a backlog of 66,750 planning permissions granted but not built. SEEC argues that councils need to have the option of powers to incentivise builders to get on and deliver these stalled developments – for example by charging council tax or revoking planning permissions if homes are not built quickly.

New homes, transport and other infrastructure are vital to meet the needs of a growing South East population. They are also essential to avoid damaging the South East’s role as the UK’s most profitable economy, which made the greatest net contribution of £80bn to Treasury spending from 2002-12.

SEEC’s report identifies barriers holding back homes and infrastructure and recommends 7 solutions:

  1. Powers for councils to incentivise delivery where building is too slow
  2. Ensure access to finance for smaller builders to increase competition in the industry
  3. Provide certainty for developers and councils through a stable and simple local planning system
  4. Improve construction skills by allowing councils to target funding at training gaps
  5. Allow councils to recover full planning costs through the fees they charge developers
  6. Raise funds for affordable homes by allowing councils to borrow & set how much developers pay
  7. Increase infrastructure funding by allowing councils to keep more local taxes, such as business rates and stamp duty.

 

Cllr Nicolas Heslop, SEEC Chairman, said: “We need greater freedoms and flexibilities to allow councils, working with developers and other local partners, to ensure more planning permissions turn into actual homes. This includes powers to incentivise builders to deliver approved permissions swiftly, local targeting of skills funding to fill workforce gaps, and access to funding for councils who want to build their own affordable homes.”

Cllr Roy Perry, SEEC Deputy Chairman, added: “Councils often struggle to secure funding for the infrastructure that is vital to support new homes. Setting aside a portion of locally generated taxes such as business rates or ‘first sale’ stamp duty could help fund the infrastructure necessary to support sustainable development. Local authorities should also be able to set the level of developer contributions towards infrastructure on all developments – including starter homes and smaller sites that are currently exempt.”