Peter Aldous backs Housing and Planning Bill to build more homes and speed up planning

2nd November 2015

Peter Aldous welcomes the Bill which sets a target of 1 million new homes by 2020 and speeds up the planning system. However, he raises concerns that the requirement for every development to include starter homes could put off the important institutional private rented sector and whilst welcoming the new  “permission in principle” proposals, he highlights the importance of listening to the views of local people.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): The Government are right to plan to build 1 million new homes by 2020, to improve access to home ownership—particularly for young people with the building of starter homes—and to seek to speed up the planning system. The target of 1 million new homes is ambitious, and to meet it will be a challenge. To stand a realistic chance of success, it is vital that the Government use all resources at their disposal.

House builders large and small who build homes for sale, and the social sector—whether councils or housing associations—have a vital role. It is important not to forget UK pension funds and insurance companies that want to invest in the market rental sector. They have an increasingly important role to play, and the Government must provide them with a framework to ensure that they can play it to the full.

It is important and right to support people in their aspiration to own their own home, although demographic changes over the past 30 years mean that not everyone wants to buy their home—research shows that 37% of people do not intend to do so. Virtually all build-to-rent activity takes place in urban locations. That means that the sector has an important role in maximising the amount of brownfield land that is redeveloped, regenerating derelict areas in towns and cities, and revitalising our high streets.

Peter Dowd: Does the hon. Gentleman know how expensive it is to remediate brownfield sites? It can cost more than £1.5 million per hectare.

Peter Aldous: I was a chartered surveyor for 27 years, and the cost of redeveloping brownfield sites varies significantly around the country. The private sector investment in urban areas has played a role in regenerating Harlem in New York, and there is no reason why it cannot play a role here in the UK. It is being done in Manchester, where the city council has formed a £1 billion partnership with the private sector to build 6,000 homes, mostly for rent over a 10-year period. It is estimated that long-term capital of the order of £50 billion can be attracted to private rented new build in the UK. However, such capital is footloose and if we do not have the right policies so that these homes are built here, that capital will go elsewhere—to Tokyo, Berlin or Sydney.

There are two aspects of this Bill that need to be looked at closely to ensure they do not prevent private build-to-rent from realising its full potential. First, there is a concern that the requirements to include starter homes for sale in all developments could seriously impact on the sector. Thus, I ask the Government to consider granting an exemption from this requirement. There is a concern that the requirement to deliver starter homes as part of larger schemes could damage investment in the private rented sector as fragmented sites are much less appealing to investors.

Secondly, the “permission in principle” proposal in clause 102 is to be welcomed, although it is important to ensure that local communities continue to have a say in decisions that will affect them, and the need for high-quality design must not be overlooked. At present it is proposed that the “permission in principle” is only available to residential developments. While this is a good start, there should be a recognition that, on their own, homes are not enough.

Thriving communities need a mix of activities if they are to be a success. In order to create places where people want to live, there is also a need to have places for them to work, rest and play. Planning policy must reflect this if we wish to avoid the mistakes of the past, when too often housing development has taken place in a vacuum devoid of amenities, facilities and infrastructure.

In summary, the Government are to be commended on their ambition both on the wide range of issues that they are covering in this Bill and the target of 1 million homes. Many such targets have been set over the years and have then invariably been missed. To ensure that this is not another one that falls by the wayside, it will be necessary to use all the tools in the box. This means that the institutional private rented sector must be given every encouragement to work alongside the owner-occupier and social-rented sectors.

9.32 pm

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