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  • Writer's pictureDavid Marlow

Long-term plan for housing or a muddled hotchpotch?

Updated: Mar 21

For their second Espresso Shot episode of March 2024, David and Mike pick over the latest suite of government announcements on housing and ask - will the actually deliver more and/or better homes?


Urban redevelopment construction site

On February 13th, the UK Government announced a further elaboration of their 2023 Long-Term Plan for Housing. 'Every council in England will be told that they will need to prioritise brownfield developments and instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that halt housebuilding on brownfield land.' In fact this part of the announcement amounted to a ‘consultation’ running to March 26th on how Government believes their instruction should be put into effect. David and Mike discussed what all this means for LEDC listeners, their cities, towns and regions.  


What are the UK Government’s proposals to increase the delivery of housing on brownfield land?

 

The UK Government’s proposals are essentially two-fold. Firstly, there is a direction to ALL local authorities to have due regard to delivering the most homes possible, especially on previously developed land, and in particular being flexible with regards to internal layouts subject to liveability considerations. Second for 20 ‘urban uplift areas’ – purportedly the largest major urban areas with housing growth potential – to have a positive presumption of approval of housing applications on brownfield land if they are failing to meet at least 95% of their Housing Delivery Test targets.

 

The proposals drew particularly on a recent review of the London Plan and also made proposals to change the mayoral/GLA intervention regime in London Boroughs for London Plan purposes.


What impact are the proposals, if enacted, likely to have?

 

David and Mike leaned towards the muddled end of whether these proposals are likely to make a significant impact on brownfield land housing delivery. The direction to all local authorities is unlikely to be a game changer from existing practice, whilst the more precise proposals for ‘urban uplift’ areas suffer from several definitional and practical problems.

 

First the definition of urban uplift areas outside London is not strategic in housing market terms. For instance, it does not apply to entire city regions but only to the regional centre local authority within a city region – so, for instance, to Manchester City Council but not to Salford, Trafford or other parts of Greater Manchester that might have more readily developable brownfield land. Second, major growth corridors like Oxford to Cambridge Arc or Thames Estuary have no urban uplift designations.

 

Practically, the influence of the London Plan Review in shaping proposals is not readily transferrable to how the volume housebuilding sector actually works in other geographies.


Are there alternative, better ways of achieving these results?

 

David and Mike wondered whether the policy goal of increasing the volume and quality of housing on brownfield land should actually be devolved to metro-mayors and city region combined authorities. As our episode with Salford City and Deputy Greater Manchester (GM) Mayor Paul Dennett suggested, with a city region spatial plan and a strategic housing investment fund, GM is surely better able to determine how the market can be incentivised to increase delivery of fit for purpose homes across the city region – in a manner DLUHC, national planning policy guidance, and urban uplift designations never could. 

 

Concluding remarks

 

Local and regional teams need their own robust and deliverable long term plans for housing, and a clear bottom up ask of how national government can assist them to bring them to fruition. Do give us your views and share your experience of how your area is responding to strategic housing challenges, what is working well, and what needs further national enabling and support.

 

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