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CHANCELLOR BACKS PLANNING LAW CHANGES

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The Treasury-commissioned report on the housing market from a team led by Kate Barker, a member of the Bank of Engl...
The Treasury-commissioned report on the housing market from a team led by Kate Barker, a member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee, will this week blame planning restrictions for a shortage of almost 90,000 new homes that the country requires each year, reported The Sunday Times (p5).

The government plan to relax Britain's planning rules, which put the government on track for a clash with Nimby ('not in my backyard') homeowners and local authorities. Chancellor Gordon Brown and deputy prime minister John Prescott will use the report to force through changes to planning regulations. Mr Prescott has already taken powers to force through housing developments against council objections in cases where local authorities are failing to allow the building of a sufficient number of homes.

It could mean pressure for additional building on green belt areas around cities. Local authorities in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire have fought running battles for years over the release of new land for homes. Councils in the north west of England have this year put a moratorium on new house building.

The Barker report will say provision of new homes has been running at between 160,000 and 170,000 over the past two years, nearly 90,000 fewer than is needed. The shortage has contributed to sharply rising house prices, leading to worries about a return to 'boom and bust' in the housing market.

At the weekend, Mr Brown signalled his intent to take on Nimby critics, indicating that he would seek to relax rules which, for example, prevent office blocks being converted into flats. 'We have to be more flexible. The days when industrial and residential areas were strictly separate have changed', he said.
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