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Builders gears up to fight council housing plans

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A lobby group bankrolled by the UK’s largest housebuilders has pledged to challenge every council’s housing plan following a successful attempt to overturn Coventry City Council’s.

The Home Builders’ Federation announced this week that it had “beefed up” its planning department in preparation for its national campaign. HBF chairman Stewart Baseley said it was “vital” that local authorities stick to the letter of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework. “This new capacity will enable the industry to be representeed at all future local plan inquiries and ensure we are challenging local authorities that are not making adequate provision for their housing need,” he added.

A spokesperson for the HBF said its current team of planning experts had helped defeat Coventry’s bid to slash the number of homes it plans to build from 33,500 to 11,000.

The 11,000 figure was “clearly an inadquate estimate of need” a spokesperson for the HBF said.

To oversee its campaign, the federation has established a new ‘plans management board’, which will include representatives from the major house builders.

“With power comes responsibilities,” Mr Baseley said about local authorities’ role in the planning system. “We want to ensure responsibilities are being met.”

A spokesman for Coventry City Council confirmed it has hoped to cut the number of homes in its ‘core strategy’ from 33,500 to 11,000.

“Coventry City Council has been informed that it must carry out further work before its core strategy can proceed through the examination process,” he added.

“The strategy which plans for growth in the city between now and 2028 was being considered by the independent planning inspectorate.

‘The inspector, assigned to Coventry, has carefully considered all representations, and has concluded that the council’s plan is not legally compliant at this time.  In his opinion the council needs to do more work with neighbouring authorities to ensure that housing need for the area is identified and planned for.’

A spokesman for the LGA said the planning regime was not the “key barrier” to boosting construction rates. “The rate of building is failing to keep pace with the record amount of planning approvals being signed off by councils,” he added. “At one point last year, there were 400,000 homes given planning permission which had yet to be built and at the current rate of construction this backlog is unlikely to be caught up on any time soon.

“Local plans will play a key part in shaping how areas grow over time and local authorities are doing a huge amount of work with residents and business to ensure they get these right. If the ambitious plans set out in these documents are to become a reality, it will be vital that government, banks and developers work together to address the lack of finance available to would-be buyers which for the past few years has been holding development back.”

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