a vital role in delivering the government's £22bn Sustainable
Communities Plan, said deputy prime minister John Prescott.
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
'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
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
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.
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
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.