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Is “building up” an example of the Government falling short?
by Zak Deakin
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Since the General Election the issue of housing has made a fast-paced climb to the top of the Government’s domestic agenda. So as we get closer to March 2018 and the expected release of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), we can expect to be subjected to plenty of rumours and pre-publication announcements in order to remind everyone that the Government is taking the current crisis seriously.
This is a process which started with the New Year’s reshuffle, which saw the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) rebranded as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Now the latest example has come from Sajid Javid, who yesterday confirmed plans to make it easier for developers to extend the height of their properties and provide new homes through added storeys in Britain’s major cities.
In an announcement the Secretary of State said that “The opportunity for new homes is not always an empty plot, or the redevelopment of a derelict site… The government recognises that [an alternative is] to build up rather than build out, using the space above existing buildings to create new homes.”
The question is whether any of these measures are actually going to make a fundamental difference in solving the problem, or whether they just serve a purpose in making it known that the Government recognise that there is one?
Senior Conservatives have labelled the most recent announcement “a cop out” compared against similar plans discussed last year. Crucially, proposals put forward by John Penrose would have meant that a home owner could extend the height of their building to match the tallest surrounding building, without having to go through the formal planning process – which Javid’s most recent proposals for ‘build up, rather than out’ fall short on.
Yesterday the Prime Minister was present at the first meeting of her Housing Implementation Taskforce, where she urged ministers to think creatively about how they can contribute to delivering the Government’s own target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year.
Yet based on recent proposals they are going to have to up their ideas quite significantly, having only managed to demonstrate a narrow approach to tweaking a system which is fundamentally broken and in need of radical change. To realise their ambition there will have to be acknowledgement of the major obstacles that stand in the way and comprehensive policy reform to address it.