“Available and affordable housing is one of my Government's main priorities,” said the Queen in her speech to Parliament on November 6, in which she outlined a number of upcoming reforms. This could be a positive sign for those struggling to get on the housing ladder, including first-time buyers.
The Housing and Regeneration Bill sets an ambitious target of three million new home builds by 2020 (around 100 per day) and plans to merge the Housing Corporation with regeneration agency English Partnerships. Meanwhile, the Planning Reform Bill aims to speed up the process of residential and commercial building projects.
However, RICS UK public policy manager, Luke Herbert, expresses concerns about these measures. "The new homes and communities agency put in place by the Bill runs the risk of being short on capacity,” he says. "The current fixation on housing numbers could overshadow the regeneration focus of the merged body,” he adds.
RBS Insurance spokesperson Roger Ramsden says that, in addition to providing affordable housing, there is a “need for stricter imposition of planning controls to ensure that new properties are not built on the flood plain, as well as compulsory adoption of sustainable urban drainage principles to prevent newer developments overloading already stressed local drainage systems.”
In terms of the environment, the speech spelt out plans for “protecting the environment and to tackling climate change”. As part of the three million quota, ten new ‘eco-towns’ containing up to 20,000 carbon-neutral homes are to be established according to housing minister, Yvette Cooper.
According to Cicero, the Housing and Regeneration Bill “will modernise powers on establishing new settlements like eco-towns, and simplify the ways in which the Homes and Communities Agency would deliver these projects.”
However, changes to planning laws with regard to this new housing could prove controversial. “Government plans to overhaul the planning system are bad news for democracy and bad news for the environment. Its proposals will strip away one of the public’s key democratic rights to have a say on how their area is developed, easing the way for a whole range of climate-damaging developments,” says Friends of the Earth planning coordinator, Naomi Luhde Thompson.
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