CPRE slams housing plans

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has slated government plans to offer local authorities housing incentives.

Ruth Kelly, head of the Department of Communities and Local Government, wants to introduce grants aimed at local authorities with particular housing needs and those that take on new housing developments.

But the CPRE has slammed the plan as nothing more than a bribe and warns that it could lead to corruption in local government and planning.

Henry Oliver, head of policy, planning and local government at the CPRE, says: “This idea appears to be a brazen attempt by the government to get local authorities to build as many houses as possible for money. The cash won’t be ring-fenced. It is even saying the amount per house could increase the more they build.”

He says this abandons any notion of responsible planning and seeing how many houses are needed before giving developers the green light.

He adds: “It seems to be a return to ‘predict and provide’ but with a bribe attached. It introduces a scary new temptation to corruption in local government and planning, encouraging local authorities to throw away the planning rulebook and just say yes regardless, to meet targets.”

The government says a housing and planning delivery grant should provide an incentive to local authorities to respond more effectively to local housing pressures and become involved in the delivery of additional housing to meet local demand.

But Oliver warns that it could result in local authorities paying no attention to the quality of developments – only whether they are delivered or not. He says it would also discriminate against communities that take their responsibility to protect designated landscapes seriously.

The government says beneficiaries would be able to use the funds to support their growing communities although the grant is not intended to cover the infrastructure needs of housing growth which will be met from other sources.

The move is in line with Kelly’s plans to boost the number of homes built each year by 160,000 to 200,000.