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News - 16/03/2015

Osborne urged to look beyond garden city developments

The Chancellor George Osborne has been urged to use his last budget before the general election to put in place measures that will ensure new garden cities can be developed quickly to meet housing need.

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Marcus Plaw, director of planning in Bristol, said while the coalition government has already committed to creating new garden cities to help alleviate the housing shortage, the speed by which the schemes can be achieved must be “questionable” through the current planning system.

The government has pledged £2 billion to build 55,000 new homes every year until 2020 but that target is ambitious unless the planning system works smoothly, he said. It means the Chancellor must announce changes when he delivers the budget on Wednesday (March 18).

“As an approach to addressing relatively localised need then as a strategy it is a positive one,” he said. “However, the government’s approach to simplifying the planning system has not delivered supply anywhere near what is needed – nor is it likely too given forecast population growth coupled with the Government’s commitment towards sustainable economic strength.

“Building new garden cities could help to support a strategy to deliver housing to meet demand, but it must sit aside a wider positive approach to delivery, and should themselves be planned and constructed promptly else their effectiveness is lessened.”

A pilot project to create a garden city with 10,000 houses is already under way at Northstowe – a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire – while an initial 15,000 homes are planned for the first garden city development in Ebbsfleet, Kent.

In December, the coalition government announced that Bicester, Oxfordshire, had been selected for the second garden city with up to 13,000 homes.

“Changes to the planning system to enable the developments to go ahead swiftly must continue but I would also call upon George Osborne to use his final budget before the general election as a platform to propose legislative changes to speed up local plan making and planning application decision making processes,” added Marcus.

Meanwhile, Paul Stevens, LSH Bristol’s director of rating, said the Chancellor, who will deliver his budget, is likely to offer “giveaways” to businesses as a sweetener because of the disquiet over the delays to the revaluations.

“It’s most unlikely that we will get what we want on rating out of the budget because this has been stalled by the delayed revaluation and various consultations that will not report out until after the election.

“In the meantime, one can only anticipate a giveaway budget with the government offering more concessions as an attempt to address some of the problems of the current system.”


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