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Published 17 December 2020
The Government this week has announced a change in the methodology for calculating the number of new homes needed in England and their location. The housing needs assessment will now form part of the Government’s “levelling-up” agenda by prioritising 330,000 “family” homes a year in England’s 20 largest cities and brownfield land.
The original algorithm prioritised housing in London and southeast of England. It resulted in huge increases (circa 400%) in housing numbers in certain Boroughs and a reduction in the housing need numbers in Manchester and Newcastle below the number of housings being built. As a result, it triggered significant political opposition from more than 80 Conservative MPs.
The change comes with an announcement that there will be £67 million in funding to the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authorities to help them deliver new homes on brownfield land, as well as an additional £100 million of funding for brownfield development.
It is clear the Government has changed tack on their original proposals, which were not consistent with their “levelling-up” agenda. The political backlash has enabled the Government to reflect on the implications of this policy and fallout from COVID-19.
The Local Government Association has welcomed the additional funding but remains of the view that algorithms are not the appropriate way of an assessing housing need. They want to retain control of the decisions on planning applications. The tension between localism and the need to deliver housing is a constant factor in the planning system. The housing needs assessment form part of the Government’s wider planning reforms. The new Planning Bill is being developed and the Government expects that it will take some time to pass through Parliament. Getting the balance right between these tensions will be critical if the Government wants to get new plans in place by the end of this Parliament in 2024.
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