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Communities Plan is short on delivery


DEVELOPERS and builders can be forgiven for feeling a little cynical about well-trailed Government announcements such as the Communities Plan. Headlines in national newspapers proclaiming 'Prescott kickstarts multibillion pound housing bonanza' and 'Giant step-change in housing' need to be treated with caution. A few years ago many fine words were written about involving stakeholders and meeting the challenge ahead but this failed to translate into much on the ground. If proof were needed, it still holds true that fewer social homes are built now than during the Thatcher era.

So, building an extra 200,000 homes in the south-east, many affordable and for key workers, is a mighty challenge, one made all the more colossal because new homes house people who need schools, hospitals, and social services, not to mention road and rail links.

Add to this the shocking claim from house builders that just one in six planning applications are being approved within the Government's eight-week target and it all seems a tad ambitious.

So is there anything to cheer about?

Well, at least the Deputy Prime Minister has come clean and admitted an extra 200,000 homes are needed. Also there is a lot more real cash earmarked. Even English Partnerships has a clear role and cash to assemble and clean up land.

There is also clear recognition that the planning process must be speeded up. Calls for innovation in design and off-site prefabrication are steps in the right direction.

But the Communities Plan is very short on delivery mechanisms. There are strong hints that planning gain will play a key part in delivering much-needed social and affordable housing, schools and roads.

All well and good, except for one thing.

How do you force developers to build less profitable homes, while increasing planning gain?