Council directors warn housing is not ‘just a numbers game’

Local authority directors have warned that fixing Britain’s housing crisis is not ‘just a numbers game’ and the market alone will not meet the necessary targets.

In a new report, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has warned that any successful housing policy has to deliver vibrant, sustainable places where communities thrive.

The Association believes that high quality design, energy and water efficiency and the inclusion of green spaces that encourage walking, cycling and biodiversity must be factored in at a strategic level.

‘Housing is not just bricks and mortar,’ said ADEPT president, Neil Gibson.

‘We have a generational as well as geographical division in access and affordability. People feel estranged from the economy and from politics, while the lack of a secure home or any prospect of having one is damaging the very fabric of the country.

‘Local authorities must have a role to play in tackling this crisis, but equally they must have the resources. The financial restrictions that prevent us from investing in more council homes, including receipts from sales, must be lifted completely. It is difficult to see how the market can come anywhere close to building 300,000 homes a year without the involvement of the public sector.’

The paper goes on to discuss ADEPT’s perspective on what new builds should look like.

The chair of ADEPT’s planning, housing and regeneration board, Peter Geraghty, added: ‘Health and housing are inextricably linked, so we want to see planning policies and decisions support physical and mental well-being. We should be delivering high quality homes in exceptional environments where people want to work and live.

‘Planning and place are intertwined. Where there is new housing there is a consequent strain on transport and services and this must be factored in to decision-making. Government needs to recognise the interdependence of health, housing and prosperity.’

Planning departments are under-resourced and under strain with the costs of dealing with planning applications running at £200million a year, according to the Local Government Association.

ADEPT believes that the burden on local authority budgets must be recognised and that frustrations with the current planning system cannot solely be laid on local authorities. Private developers, housing associations, infrastructure and utility providers and mortgage lenders, as well as communities themselves all have a role to play in delivery.

Mr Gibson continued: ‘ADEPT has welcomed the Housing Infrastructure Fund, the review of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Government’s commitment to housebuilding. In return we would ask the Government to simplify funding schemes and reduce the proportion of funding that is distributed through competitive bidding. The burden on local authorities is simply too high.

‘Housing is a “gateway issue”, one that ties together infrastructure, economy, people and place. It cannot be viewed in isolation, we have an opportunity here to build for the future, providing we recognise that high quality homes need high quality places.’

The ADEPT Autumn conference will discuss the balance between achieving the volume of housing and new civic infrastructure alongside the ambition to have inclusive and sustainable high-quality places, providing safe spaces, healthy places and access for all. For more information, visit www.adeptnet.org.uk.

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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