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RTPI HOPES THAT HOUSING GUIDANCE WILL MEET HOUSING NEEDS

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Brian Raggett, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute welcomed the clarity of thinking set out in the gover...
Brian Raggett, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute welcomed the clarity of thinking set out in the government's Planning Policy Guidance note 3, Housing (PPG3), and added that the real test will be whether the measures prove to meet the nation's housing needs.

The new sequential approach, which will require planning authorities to give priority to using previously developed land and buildings before releasing greenfield sites for development was first proposed by this Institute in 1996.

Brian Raggett confirmed the Institute's continued support for this measure, saying, 'It must now be clearly incorporated into Local Authorities' Development Plans, but must not be used as a deliberate hurdle to deny people the homes they want, and where they want them.'

The measures for more effective use of previously developed land are welcome, and the government has detailed the issues to be covered in the urban white paper, for making our towns and cities places in which people want to live - the urban renaissance.

Brian particularly welcomed the emphasis on releasing land previously reserved for employment, or other purposes, where it may be better used for housing. This means that there will be an increasing need for local authorities to review regularly their housing and employment land allocations. Local planning authorities will also need to assess empty buildings and housing stock for their scope for conversion, working in partnership with other local authority teams and with the requirements of other planning policy guidance notes.

Brian Raggett also supported the increased emphasis on urban design quality. 'Considerable progress has already been made in recent years, and this Institute and others reward excellence regularly through a number of award schemes', he said.

'But improved urban design, better layouts and wider choices of sizes and types of housing, must not result in unacceptably high levels of housing density - or unresolved problems for the existing infrastructure. Furthermore, although the proposal for some lower car-parking standards may be justified, this will not necessarily mean that we can focus just on the needs of people, rather than cars. The Government must recognise, and planners and housebuilders must deal with, the fact that people will continue to own and use cars, even in urban areas.'

Finally, the RTPI believes that PPG3 will require clear government action on ensuring that the housing provision figures, agreed regionally, add up nationally and are delivered locally. It will place a heavy responsibility on local planning authorities to keep their development plans up-to-date, and to deliver their local shares of the country's growing housing needs.

In conclusion, Brian Raggett said, 'PPG3 potentially provides local authorities with an important new tool to use, in meeting the Government's national target of 60% of new housing on recycled land. There is now an urgent need for this guidance to be applied and interpreted at the local level. The RTPI now aims to promote a constructive dialogue on this key issue, with the House Builder's Federation and other interest groups, over the coming weeks.'

The Royal Town Planning Institute will scrutinise the draft paper carefully, to ensure the Government's measures are both long-term and sustainable - not 'quick fixes' sought by those with only the narrow interest of protecting their own back yards.

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