Out-Law News 2 min. read

UK government announces measures to support major house building projects and speed up planning process

The UK government has announced measures to provide support for major house building projects, to speed up the planning process and to test "a radical new approach" to the delivery of new homes by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The coalition government's National Infrastructure Plan 2014 (140-page / 4.4 MB PDF) (NIP) was published this morning by the Treasury. The document set out the government's plans for infrastructure development in the UK "for the next Parliament and beyond" and included several commitments aimed at boosting the supply of housing in the country.

Among the proposals in the document was the trial of "a new [housing] delivery model" at a former Royal Air Force base at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire. The government said the HCA would lead development of 10,000 homes at the site "up to twice as fast as [through] conventional development routes", by directly master-planning development and commissioning homes for sale. The government committed to producing a report by Budget 2015, considering "the feasibility and economic impacts of pursuing this model at a wider scale".

The document announced proposals to support several major house building projects across the country. It said £100 million would be provided by the government towards land remediation and infrastructure for the development of the proposed 15,000-home garden city in Ebbsfleet, Kent. The government committed to agreeing the heads of terms for a £55m loan towards the extension of the London Overground to Barking Riverside, where 11,000 new homes are planned. It also said it would be "supporting the regeneration of Brent Cross", which received outline planning consent for 7,500 homes and a new town centre in July.

The NIP outlined several proposed measures aimed at speeding up the planning process. It said that proposals would be brought forward to make compulsory purchase processes "clearer, faster and fairer" and to ensure that "the principle of development need only be established once". It also said the government would speed up the process for section 106 negotiations and increase the threshold below which councils would be considered to be deciding major planning decisions too slowly from to 50% of major decisions made on time "as performance continues to improve".

The government also announced several measures that were not included in the NIP. Among them was a commitment to support plans for the Oxfordshire town of Bicester to become a 'garden town'. Plans for the second phase of a 10,000-home 'eco town' to the north-west of Bicester were submitted to Cherwell District Council in August and the government said that it would support the construction of up to another 13,000 new homes in the town.

North Oxfordshire MP Sir Tony Baldry expressed his support for the plans in a statement on Monday. Baldry noted that the town had "a very substantial amount of undeveloped brownfield land" owned by the Ministry of Defence, and was an "ideal location" for housing development, being located between Birmingham and London and benefitting from an existing north-south rail link and a forthcoming east-west rail link.

Other measures announced by the government included: approving funding for 8,000 new homes on four London housing estates under the £150m estates regeneration programme; and committing to the release of "public sector land with capacity for up to 150,000 homes over the next Parliament".

"New houses support economic growth and are a crucial element of a fair society, so I've prioritised the investment of almost £2 billion to ensure we can build on average 55,000 new homes a year until 2020," said chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander in a statement. "Combined with other measures we are announcing today, we will vastly increase supply by providing funding certainty, unlocking capacity in housing associations and kick starting stalled regeneration projects."

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