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Get 'proactive' on planning, councils urged

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Councils could better control housing affordability in their areas by organising development sites for new homes, an international study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concludes.

The research report discovered that authorities in many countries were more ‘pro-active’ in land assembly than their UK counterparts, often employing compulsory purchase powers to do so.

“Within urban areas, land readjustment typically involved multiple owners ‘pooling’ land,” it adds. “‘The municipality would then provide services and infrastructure. Owners receive a share of the uplift in land value following development, after the municipality has recouped its costs.”

In England, the planning regime was more likely to serve private landowners’ interests, the research report International Review of Land Supply and Planning Systems concludes. “Landowners’ expectations govern whether and when they are prepared to release land. It is difficult to get landowners to take a cut when the market declines.”

A more ‘proactive’ planning role for local authorities would “almost certainly require greater use of compulsory purchase”, the report adds.

The study argues also for greater incentives to encourage councils to support new development. “Incentives to local authorities [in England] are limited,” it states. “Particularly important is the lack of a clear mechanism for funding appropriate infrastructure,” it concludes.

“The Government has introduced several new measures to bring forward more housing, including a strong presumption in favour of development, the New Homes Bonus, an increasing role for the Homes and Communities Agency in promoting public land, greater flexibility in green belt designations and the Community Infrastructure Levy.”

Such initiatives were however viewerd with “scepticism” in the planning and housebuilding industry, the researchers state.


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