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New town corporations to get extra borrowing headroom to build

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The government will extend powers for the planning bodies responsible for building new towns, under newly revised regulations to be submitted to Parliament.

New town development corporations, held accountable by councils, will ultimately become responsible for master planning with the ability to extend private borrowing without permission from the Treasury.

Housing minister Dominic Raab said: “We need to build the homes our communities need and I’m committed to giving councils the tools they need to deliver. That’s why we’re giving councils the option of applying to establish development corporations. These will be locally accountable and must listen to the views of the community to ensure that the right homes are built in the right places.”

The new development corporations will be mainly led by council representatives with the aim of establishing new communities similar to the post-war garden cities and new towns. Mr Raab told a design conference in London in March that these towns will be built to a very high standard to guarantee their longevity.

The government received 92 reponses - 17 from local authorities - over the four weeks that its public consultation remained open to 2 January 2018. According to the consultation summary, “almost all” of the 17 authorities expressed “significant concern” over the need to request Treasury permission over borrowing more than £100m.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said in its consultation summary: “In the light of consultation responses, we have removed from the final regulations any requirement for a locally led New Town Development Corporation to seek HM Treasury consent for borrowing.

“Instead, as consultees suggested, borrowing levels for the locally led new town development corporation will be agreed between HM Treasury and the local authorities which will form the oversight authority as part of agreeing the financial parameters within which the new town development corporation will operate. This will be agreed on a case-by-case basis in advance of the secretary of state consulting on the designation of an area for a new town.”

The previous communities secretary Sajid Javid announced plans to build up to five new towns in the Oxfordshire - Cambridgeshire corridor in an interview with The Times in March.

According to an MHCLG press release issued today all development corporations will be “expected to involve communities in their projects”, while the towns themselves will be subject to standard planning requirements and procedures.

Responding to the announcement, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman Martin Tett (Con) said: “The LGA has long-called for oversight of local development corporations to be carried out by councils, so that local communities can have as much say as possible about developments in their areas. It is positive that the government has listened to the views of local communities on local development corporations.

“We will continue to engage with the government to ensure that we can make the most of these new opportunities to deliver homes through local development corporations, and will continue to support the sector in efforts to deliver new homes. However, there is no quicker way to deliver these homes than by triggering the renaissance in council housebuilding we need by lifting the housing borrowing cap and enabling councils to borrow to build once more.”

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