Thursday, May 11, 2023

New build and bust

Pressure is building for a change to the planning regulations to enable the Government to claim that it is helping young people onto the housing ladder. And any such claim will immediately be exceeded by Labour. The volume of this debate will increase as a general election approaches. Despite there only being a tenuous link between the plight of the thousands of households in need of a decent home and the building of new estates by the volume builders, there is fresh talk of renewing the recently expired Help to Buy scheme that makes it easier to raise deposits on new homes. The explanation that the scheme has increased to price of houses for those both on and those off the scheme is falling on deaf ears. There is a growth in those claiming that even 300,000 new homes a year would not be enough to meet the need without a mention that the embodied carbon would exceed the budget for the whole economy, the 1million empty homes (there are about 28m houses and 27m households) and the 50% of space in existing houses that is not meeting housing needs (but the space and fabric needs insulation and heating). Another current debate is about the meaning of 15min neighbourhoods and how these can be achieved. I have not heard mention of the impact that under-occupancy has on the viability of services in these areas that could be significantly increased if the existing houses were subdivided, enabling downsizing in place and new households creating a home. Meanwhile the statutory self build registers started in 2016 are fading into the distance. For those who spotted the story about the former RAF Upper Heyford in a previous blog, on 9 September 2022 Cherwell District Council approved the 2018 application for a masterplan but did not inform me until 19 December. It has taken 5 months to provide an explanation for a delay that extended beyond the statutory 6 weeks in which to challenge a decision in the courts. An officer who had emailed after 9 September implying that the decision had not been made claimed that there was no delay because the public could and should be tracking applications online. The notification was in response to emails enquiring about progress, but not such an enquiry made within the 6 week period. This will now be a footnote in the book about Upper Heyford and Cold War memory to lower expectations about the delivery of the planning service, describing the lack of remedies for mistakes including the closing of ranks as officers cover for the failings of each other.

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