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Councils ditch new housing plans

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Councils have rejected projects that would have delivered more than 7,500 new homes in the last two months alone, according to research.

The news prompted house builders to express fears that changes to planning rules would escalate Britain’s already acute housing shortage, according to the Financial Times, which carried out the research.

The research followed communities secretary Eric Pickles writing to local authorities in May ordering them to scrap their “regional spatial strategies”, targets drawn up under the last government to force councils to oversee higher levels of house building.

The FT said that within days of Mr Pickles’ letter going out several schemes around the country were turned down, the rejections often attributed to Mr Pickles’s intervention.

In Newmarket, for example, councillors voted unanimously to reject a plan by Lord Derby, a landowner, to build 1,200 homes at Hatchfield Farm. Planners in Winchester threw out a proposal for 2,000 homes at Barton Farm.

Steve Brine, the Conservative MP for Winchester, later described the Pickles letter as “the talk of the town”. It was cited as the basis for the planning officer’s advice that the scheme be rejected.

But Mr Brine suggested there was still confusion. “The council cannot progress until it knows whether it has been released from what it considers to be a planning limbo,” he said.

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