LAST week, the government issued proposals to allow new homes to be built on 'renewal sites' without the need for planning permission, in order to speed up delivery from the planning system.

This was announced by Robert Jenrick, the Conservative Housing Secretary. Remember him? The MP that flouted lockdown rules and wasn't sacked and stepped into a planning dispute in London resulting in a major Tory donor avoiding having to pay a £40 million levy to the local community that would have paid for new schools, libraries etc.

Once again the Tories are tinkering with the planning system to favour the housebuilding industry at the expense of the wider public.

The planning system is not holding up housing delivery, it is the housebuilding industry itself.

Unlike most other countries, housing land in the UK is largely controlled by a few major players, such as Persimmon Homes and Redrow. Land is 'banked' for future development. They choose when to release land for development. The more they release land to increase supply, the greater choice for the public, thus cost for you to buy reduces and profits for the housebuilders decline.

It is therefore in the interest of the housebuilders to reduce build rates and 'landbank'.

This of course only works if sufficient land for development is available in the first place, which in many authorities it is; certainly in Somerset West and Taunton.

The council's own housing land assessment for 2019 (SHLAA) demonstrated a potential existing supply of 4,430 deliverable plots over the next five years, whereas only 3,223 are required. In 2017/18, only 497 new dwellings were built.

Under the government's new proposals, permission will be granted in principle without the need for planning permission on 'renewal' sites. If this means previously developed land, over 43% of new homes in the district were completed on such land.

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The Local Government Association and Shelter have both warned against the poor quality of housing already being completed without the need for permission, such as conversions of office buildings into flats.

Likewise all new homes were to be built to zero-carbon standards by 2016 until the Government rescinded this in 2015 following pressure from the housebuilding industry.

Do not blame planning officers or local councillors (Tory or otherwise) for the amount or quality of housing built in the local area.

Local councils are required by central government to allocate land for development and are financially penalised for refusing planning permission if a government-appointed inspector would otherwise approve it.

Pressure is on local councils to approve housing developments to fund provision of services that have been cut by central government. Avoiding the need for planning permission will further erode the quality of housing and will not necessarily increase supply.

While there are immense restrictions on meaningful council housebuilding programmes and a few national private housebuilders can control the supply of housing coming onto the market, we will never meet our national or local housing needs and with current government proposals, quality will further decline.