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Published 17 October 2014
Reacting to the launch yesterday (16 October) of the Lyons Housing Review, which examines current and future housing policy in England, Anita Rivera, Head of Planning at international law firm DAC Beachroft, said:
"The Lyons Housing Review acknowledges the main issues facing housing delivery, offers a number of bold solutions and should be applauded. It recognises the combined failures of the market, planning, leadership (on both national and local levels), fiscal constraints and misunderstanding, which has allowed the housing crisis to escalate. Its recommendations are bold and inspiring. Although not all of the recommendations are likely to be achievable, it provides many that are and should be further explored."
Giving further detail, Anita added:
"Local planning authorities should not be allowed to fail in their duty to provide an up-to-date local plan, which sets out housing requirements and allocates sufficient land to meet housing need. But, if the results of the new 'duty to cooperate' between neighbouring local authorities is anything to go by, the threat of empowering the Secretary of State to direct the Planning Inspectorate to intervene to 'ensure an acceptable plan is produced' in cooperation with local residents will be hard to achieve.
"The Review promotes several suggestions to encourage the build out of housing on land that has either been granted planning consent or has been allocated in a local plan. Some are practical, easy wins: for instance, shortening the length of time to implement a planning permission and increasing the threshold of implementation to keep a planning permission alive. These are not bad ideas and most housebuilders would welcome the ability to implement consents sooner but, equally, mechanisms to speed up the pace of discharging planning conditions and a reduction in the number of pre-commencement conditions to enable this to happen needs to be secured.
"Another proposal in the Review unlikely to win favour among delivery partners is the option of charging landowners council tax on an annual basis for housing, which is not delivered. This places a positive obligation on a landowner to either build the houses or pay the tax and fails to recognise that the landowner is often not the developer (who is often subject to the terms of an option agreement) or the commercial reality of housebuilders that are answerable to shareholders.
"The ability to exercise CPO powers to promote housing development is a powerful tool. Changes to legislation and compensation provisions together with greater clarity can and should be used to facilitate the delivery of housing. The proposals being put forward for large-scale site assembly to enhance compensation are commercial, realistic and should be deliverable."