More haste, less speed
27th August 2020 | posted in News
Like the vast majority of people working in the housing sector, I welcome Government plans to speed up the planning process and housing delivery.
But there are a few things which concern me.
One is around proposals to categorise land into ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protected’ areas. I think we would all agree that green-belt land should be protected, but in growth areas, outline planning approval would be automatically granted for types of development specified in local plans.
This may make it more difficult to oppose a development (because it’s been put in the local plan) even if you live 100 yards from it.
Another concern is around the proposal to replace Section 106 developer contributions and replace them with a new infrastructure levy, which would require private housebuilders to pay local authorities who would then spend this on locally on infrastructure projects and new affordable housing.
It all sounds ok in principle, but it’s not clear that this money will be ring-fenced for affordable housing and if it’s not, there’s nothing to prevent already cash strapped local authorities from spending it elsewhere.
Currently, 40% of all affordable housing is supplied via Section 106 agreements and even though, personally, my housing association has never acquired houses this way, it’s clearly had a very positive impact, so hopefully we will get more clarification on this in the coming months.
Speaking of development, I am pleased to report, that even despite of Covid-19, Railway Housing Association continues to develop new homes. We are now in the final few months of a development in Darlington, County Durham, which will provide 16 new, two-bedroom bungalows for older people; and will adjoin our award-winning scheme known as The Sidings, which involved the restoration and conversion of a listed railway engine shed built in 1844.
And we’re about to start work on another scheme with historical significance, although this time it relates to a British comedy legend. This is because we’re redeveloping a rundown old school in Bishop Auckland, also in County Durham, which was once attended by Stan Laurel.
As part of the development we are going to sympathetically restore the front of the main Grade 2 listed building – known not surprisingly as the Laurel Building – as part of an overall 28-home scheme consisting of two-bedroom bungalows and apartments.
When completed we have visions of the residents saying “Well, here’s another fine housing scheme you got me into.”
I’ll get my coat!!