Housing White Paper signals a fresh approach - but hurry up!
Housing is one of the things that people talk to me about pretty much all the time - some people don't want any more houses in their village and feel the developers are landbanking and taking advantage. Other people tell me their children who are on fair money and doing decent jobs have no chance of buying their own homes. So the new housing white paper put out by the Government is of particular interest to South Cambs people.
It does I think signal a fresh approach by the government - a more pragmatic approach - such as hints that local authorities in areas of high demand may be able to make the case for more council house building. The commitment to the Green Belt is in alignment with our own thinking at South Cambs about keeping edge of Cambridge constrained and building new communities in places like Northstowe and Cambourne and Waterbeach, with good connectivity a vital prerequisite.
I would have liked more carrot and stick to encourage good development and manage down the poor development. The white paper offers some new powers, such as reducing the default length of permissions from three to two years (Para 2.41), introducing a power to rescind permissions on the undeveloped parts of stalled sites (Para 2.42) and a general beefing up of compulsory purchase powers (Paras 2.43 & 2.44). There is also a suggestion that the likelihood of a site coming forward within a reasonable time scale and the track record of the applicant in delivery should be material considerations in granting permission (Paras 2.39 & 2.40).
These proposals will go some way to help, but fall well short of the draconian suggestion put forward by some councils that undeveloped sites with permission should become liable to Council Tax after a period of grace.
A white paper is not law - its a direction of travel. We in South Cambs don't have a lot of time to get this right, so I will be asking our MPs to work with us to encourage Ministers to fastrack the sensible proposals into real laws and real powers.