Legal duty to build affordable homes in Cornwall, with greenfield sites targeted? (From Falmouth Packet)
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Legal duty to build affordable homes in Cornwall, with greenfield sites targeted?
10:52am Thursday 29th August 2013 in News
Councils should have a 'legal obligation' to build affordable homes if local house prices and rents rise above a certain limit, says the government.
However despite claims the move would signal a rush to build on the Cornish countryside if "blanket" bans on rural development were lifted, the planning minister Nick Boales says the move is part of new planning rules that would “reinforce all green belt and environmental protections”.
The legal obligation move came as Mr Boles launched new national online planning guidance resource for public testing and comment, aimed at giving "much needed simplicity and clarity to the planning system and bring about better community involvement".
Mr Boles said: "Planning shouldn’t just be the preserve of technocrats, lawyers and council officers. Yet up to now even the experts have struggled to plough through all the background documents and find the right advice. To be effective our planning system needs to be supported by practical guidance that anyone can consult and follow.
"Having stripped away outdated advice, our new user friendly website brings together a simplified set of clear, concise guidance and publishes it altogether in one place. This will make the planning system much easier to navigate for everyone involved.
When the Packet looked the website was not available.
The guidance will:
- Introduce a new affordability test for determining how many homes should be built
- Open up planning appeal hearings to cameras
- Discouraging councils from introducing a new parking tax on people’s driveways and parking spaces
- Encourage more town centre parking spaces and end aggressive ‘anti-car’ traffic calming measures like speed bumps
- Housing for older people - councils should build more bungalows and plan positively for an ageing population
- New neighbourhood planning guidance to help more communities start their own plans
- New local green space guidance to help councils and local communities to plan for open space and protect local green spaces which are special to them
The move has raised concern in some quarters that greenfield sites across Cornwall could disappear under concrete, and not deliver the needed end result, an end to the county's housing affordability crisis.
A 40 year housing boom in Cornwall has seen house prices rise ever further out of reach, while delivering huge swathes of expensive homes for second home owners.
West Cornwall MP Andrew George told the Western Morning News: "This is the complete opposite of what the countryside needs. The best way to solve the affordable housing crisis in rural areas is to stop all development and use the exceptions policy – only build when exceptional need can be demonstrated.
"A let-rip strategy does not work. What Nick Boles wants to do is what places including Cornwall have been doing for 30, 40 years. So we are not Nimbys. House-building has doubled but we still have the problems. What it is doing is putting greed before need."
The launch follows an external review that looked into streamlining some 7,000 pages of practice guidance which explains statutory provisions, planning and the planning system.
The changes have not been welcomed by The Campiagn for Protection for Rural England which has claimed that plans for building on green field sites have already doubled in a year, after planning changes to introduce a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
Speaking to the national press the CPRE said proposals for a new “affordability test” would see “unnecessary loss of countryside and deliver very little affordable housing”.
Adding: “Not only is the idea of affordability going to be unworkable and won’t deliver the desired result of more affordable housing, it’s likely to increase pressure on the countryside unnecessarily.
“This smacks of a nice theoretical idea dreamt up in a think-tank…which has no chance at all of working on the ground in the real world.
“It’s going to create untold difficulties for local authorities. This is one step further away from protecting the countryside against unnecessary development.”
Mr Boles told the Sun newspaper: “Anyone currently in a house is living on what used to be a green field. Why is it ok for them but not others?"
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