County council leaders have called for reforms to the “fragmented” planning system to boost housebuilding, as the government revealed how £45m of funding for councils to unlock land for development will be shared out.
Torbay Council received the largest allocation of £4m, followed by Plymouth City Council (£3.9m), Bristol City Council (£3.8m) and Blackpool Council (£3.1m). The fund was oversubscribed, with 143 project bids received for projects worth £100m.
Housing and planning minister Dominic Raab said the money will provide land for up to 7,280 homes by March 2020.
But the County Councils Network today warned the planning system is fragmented in England’s 27 two-tier areas as district councils are responsible for planning while county councils deliver infrastructure, such as roads and schools.
The latest housing price index from the government, published this week, reveals county house prices rose 5.9% in 2017, compared to 2% in London and 4.9% in metropolitan areas and cities.
CCN said the average county house price is now £262,390, and added that is about £100,000 more than in cities and rising at a faster rate.
It said figures show the percentage of affordable homes delivered in shire counties is failing to keep pace with other parts of the country, with 26% of all net additional homes classified as affordable, compared to 34% in urban areas.
CCN said the ‘statement of common ground’ announced in the housing white paper, which would require councils to agree to work together on plans for homes and infrastructure, does not go far enough.
It is calling for strategic planning to be re-written into the system, with county councils having the final say on matters relating to infrastructure to ensure district councils collaborate on development plans.
CCN spokesman on housing, planning and infrastructure Philip Atkins (Con) said: “We want to work with district councils to deliver the homes this country desperately needs, but this requires a more collaborative approach.
“Moving towards strategic planning and coordinated infrastructure provision on the county scale will enable us to overcome the current fragmented approach to housing and planning in rural areas.”
CCN also argues that infrastructure funding is “disproportionately skewed” to urban areas and described the current system of developer contributions, which fund affordable homes and local infrastructure, as not for purpose.
It said this is because counties have no powers over funding streams such as the community infrastructure levy and section 106 agreements.
Cllr Atkins said this is driving up house prices in shire counties and leading to unsuitable development.
He added: “Winning local support for new homes to provide a place to live, a place to raise a family, a place to raise living standards will only be achieved by the providing the right infrastructure in the right places.
“By fundamentally reforming the way councils can harness developer contributions and empowering county authorities, this major barrier to housing growth could be removed.”
The District Councils’ Network has been contacted for comment.