Newgate Communications’ Planning Committee Barometer reveals local councillors’ views on planning issues with housing delivery high up the agenda. 67% of North West councillors think that the housing crisis is getting worse – higher than the national average – with only 9% believing it is improving.
The responsibility for the ongoing crisis is being firmly placed at the door of developers with 44% of North West respondents stating that slow build out rates are to blame and only 21% pointing to community opposition as the cause. 62% felt that developers were responsible for delivering against housing targets in Local Plans.
Providing affordable homes for future generations and ensuring economic growth and job creation were the joint top concerns for councillors in the North West, narrowly followed by preserving the Green Belt. When asked how affordability could be improved 73% felt that more affordable homes needed to be delivered, with 60% stating that more homes needed to be built in general. 10% of councillors said affordability was not an issue in their local authority area – which is higher than the national average.
Over half of councillors felt that the viability assessment system is being abused and is used by developers to avoid planning obligations.
Rebecca Eatwell, Managing Partner at Newgate Communications, said:
“Local councillors clearly think that the housing crisis is getting worse and there was a general feeling in the research that developers are a big part of the problem. I think this reflects a wider reputational issue facing the industry at present. With the Government targeting developers with claims of landbanking and fingers being pointed around the lack of affordable housing, you can see why.
“Yet we work with many housebuilders and developers that are genuinely trying to create sustainable communities that deliver inclusive growth. The contribution that the housing sector makes to both local communities and the national economy is often overlooked. I’d argue it’s time to stop apportioning blame and for local councillors to work with developers to tackle the issue together.”
In a disappointing result for developers keen to engage, the research also revealed that only 18% of local authorities actively encourage conversations between committee members and developers on planning applications. 13% reported being actively discouraged to engage with developers. This will no doubt be a source of frustration for many developers who want to ensure their schemes meet local needs and aspirations.
When it came to the Green Belt nearly 60% of councillors said they would not support a review in their local authority if it provided land for housing (34% said they would). This contrasted with the national figure where only 45% said they wouldn’t support a review.
Rebecca Eatwell, went on to say:
“It was interesting to see the contrast between the North West and other regions when it came to protecting the Green Belt. This most likely reflects the greater pressures on delivering affordable housing in other parts of the country, like the South East. That said it’s true of all areas that while there is some Green Belt that is sacrosanct there’s also plenty that’s low value. It’s certainly the case that not all Green Belt was created equal and I think we’re long overdue a rational debate about it.”