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PRESCOTT OUTLINES REFORMS TO DELIVER SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

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Culture change and reform of the land-use planning process will play ...
Culture change and reform of the land-use planning process will play

a vital role in delivering the government's £22bn Sustainable

Communities Plan, said deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Addressing the Guardian/Observer 'New Agenda for British Housing'

conference, Mr Prescott said:

'Planning authorities should see their job not just as operating the

planning system, but also making sure that they meet their

house-building targets and also the quality targets in the

Communities Plan.

'I don't want to paint all planning authorities with the same brush,

but there has to be culture change. The provision of housing is vital

to us all, so I will be asking the Audit Commission to assess the

performance of authorities in delivering the right sort of housing,

in the right quantities and the right places.

'I also intend to take action when planning authorities are not

delivering on the targets for dealing with planning applications -

and will intervene when necessary. We can't be in a situation where

major housing developments are being held back - where planning

becomes part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.'

Mr. Prescott also said that the government would look at how to make

the system for allocating land for housing more flexible.

'We need to look at how we can be more flexible with the way local

authorities allocate land for housing. Unless there's a convincing

case otherwise, local authorities should allow land allocated for

industrial or commercial use to be used for housing or mixed-use

development. We can also do a lot more with the vast amounts of

surplus public land - much of it owned by the government - and we

will shortly publish the first national register of all surplus

public land.'

The deputy prime minister's speech, to planning, housing and

regeneration professionals, outlined the action being taken to tackle

deprivation and shortage of affordable hous ing, as set out in

February's £22bn Plan for Sustainable Communities.

The Plan describes a vision for vibrant and thriving communities

where people want to live, not leave. Key measures in the Plan

include: £5bn for more affordable housing, £500m for

deserted and rundown areas in the North and Midlands, £2.8bn to

improve social housing, and £201m for improving the local

environment.

Technology, design and innovation be important parts this drive to

create new, high quality communities. Mr Prescott announced to the

conference that, from 2004/5, a quarter of new homes funded by the

Housing Corporation will be from 'off-site' manufacture. He said:

'We must switch our attention to more off-site manufacture - which

not only cuts the build time, but offers better design and quality

and a much better safety record. I can announce today that we have

set the Housing Corporation a new target, that from 2004/5, 25% of

new homes they fund should be off-site manufacture.'

Mr Prescott also announced that John Egan will spearhead a major

review of the skills and capacity of the built environment

professions required to deliver sustainable communities (including

planning, surveying, regeneration, economic development,

architecture, design, construction and manufacturing).

The deputy prime minister also revealed that the government would set

up a further three urban regeneration companies in Sandwell, Derby

and West Cumbria & Furness. These independent companies bring

together local government, local businesses and, crucially, local

people to regenerate communities across the country. This brings the

total number of urban regeneration companies to 14.

Notes

1. The government's Plan for Sustainable Communities was launched by

the deputy prime minister on 5 February 2003.

2. John Egan conduct a review of the skills and capacity of the

built environment professions (including p lanning, surveying,

regeneration, economic development, architecture, design,

construction and manufacturing) required to deliver sustainable

communities.

3. The first pilot Urban Regeneration Companies (URCs) were set up

in 1999 (Liverpool, East Manchester and Sheffield). The Urban White

Paper (November 2000) said that, in addition to the pilots already

established, there would be further URCs set up over a two to three

year period. The three new URCs announced today bring the overall

total to 14. The existing 11 URCs are: Liverpool, East Manchester,

Sheffield, Corby, Leicester, Tees Valley, Swindon, Hull, Bradford,

Sunderland and the Camborne-Pool-Redruth.

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