The Coalition Government’s ‘Localism Bill’

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Planning for Development?
Town and Country Planning, Spatial Planning, Environmental Planning, or whatever you may wish to call it, is at the heart of the debate over House Prices, Affordable Homes, and the number of houses being built.

No Land – No Houses
More properly this should be “No land with development permission – No possibility to build houses”. And, over the whole term of the last Labour Government, this was the problem. Progressively fewer and fewer permissions seemed to be given for new housing and/or those permits that were granted appeared to take longer and longer to obtain.

Less Land = Higher Prices
The simple 101 economics ‘Law of Supply and Demand’ tells us that if there is less of something that more people want, then the price will go up. And that is what happened with housing.

It was not that house builders were making vast sums out of the shortage - they were (and are) having to pay much more for the land they needed to build on in order to stay in business. The cost of – and the price charged for – actual construction, whether ‘wet build’ masonry, or ‘dry build’ timber frame, remained (and so far remains) pretty constant, but as the price of the land shot up it took house prices with it.

Will ‘Localism’ produce more, or less land?
This is the 64,000 dollar question. The fear is that, as and when local communities get more power over the planning process, it will give greater opportunity for NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitudes to kick in, stifling the flow of planning permissions even further. On the other hand, areas desperately short of houses may ‘take the Government’s shilling’ and effectively ‘sell’ permissions in return for the incentives that Central Government are proposing to give them for releasing land for development.

If YOU want to build, it does affect YOU
No matter whether you are a volume builder, a regional operator, a small local builder, a self-builder looking for a plot to build your own ‘little piece of heaven’, a home extender wanting to enlarge and improve your present home so that you can stay close to friends, family, schools, or whatever, or even if you are the local building contractor hoping for more work to help sustain your business and climb out of the recession – this Bill affect you!

Briefing Paper Available from HBF
A briefing paper prepared for Members of Parliament by the Home Builders Federation was sent to all MP’s in advance of the Bill’s 2nd reading on 17th January. To ensure that you are up to date with the way many new home builders view this intended legislation and to be able to form your own views and debate this important measure with your own local officials, councillors and MP’s, you can download a copy of HBF’s briefing paper here.

Collecting Evidence
Evidence will be given to the Localism Bill Committee by the HBF and senior HBF members, i.e. probably the national volume house builders. The Committee is collecting this evidence before starting its detailed scrutiny of the provisions of the Bill. To make sure your views have at least some chance of being heard, read the briefing document and talk to your MP without delay.

Ending ‘Centralist Creep’
Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, claimed that the Bill would replace decades of ‘centralist creep’ with more local control. Changing the balance of power from Bureaucracy to Democracy will, he opines, revitalise the country and “put power back in the hands of the people.”
Proactive, Not Reactive
Turning convention on its head, the Bill will effectively require lawyers to find a statute that prevents action being taken, rather than relying on finding one that allows this.

Tackling the ‘Deep Housing Crisis’
In Pickles’ view “The Bill will give councils and communities the power that they need to tackle the housing challenges that they face. The coalition Government has inherited a deep housing crisis.”
The Opposition’s View on Housing
Caroline Flint , the Shadow Communities Secretary, argued that :-

“The Secretary of State knows that I support sensible reform of social housing, but it must be reform that encourages employment, supports families and helps to create strong communities where people feel safe. Simply abolishing secure tenancies and kicking new tenants out of their homes when they get a promotion or a pay rise would just create fear and uncertainty. It would disrupt family life, and it could provide a disincentive to work. We on this side of the House could never support reforms that put a break on aspiration.”

Your Copy of the Localism Bill
… can be downloaded here OR for a Plain English guide to the Localism Bill click here

If you’ve got land for development …
… don’t forget that you can usually make the most of it by collaborating with a specialist firm like one of the Benfield ATT Group companies. Whether you need assistance with the design, planning, engineering, or Building Regulation aspects of your project, whether you want to sell your land, find a joint development partner, or simply need someone to manufacture and build the timber frame, or even the complete turnkey project, they can probably help you. They work all over the UK and overseas, so remember, they are only a ‘phone call (01291 437 050) or e-mail away.

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