The inevitable is happening. Grant Shapps tells local authorities they can discard their regional spatial strategies – that’s the target authorities were forced to meet for new housing numbers – and what happens? Schemes are being delayed or thrown out. We’ve only just started building houses again after a recession-induced hibernation. This is worrying stuff – and plans for the incentives promised by Shapps as rewards for councils to allow more homes need to be published soon, before housing sites get mothballed again.
One bit of good news, though, is the scrapping of minimum densities for new housing sites. Fans point out that 30 dwellings per hectare - the guidance in PPG3 - is not particularly high. But it unleashed a whole raft of schemes where “the higher, the better” reigned for a while, to the extent that on some London proposals Hong Kong was beginning to look spread out.
Of course, it won’t please housebuilders that PPG3 is being scrapped. On the one hand they’ll feel liberated in being able to build larger family homes with decent-sized gardens – there is still a shortage of those. But land they bought will have been valued on the basis of cramming in more homes to the hectare so they won’t necessarily want to move away from that on the current land banks.
Local authorities in the South-east, who never really bought into the idea of developers pulling down a leafy detached house to cram in two blocks of flats, will have yet another reason to turn down the planning application. And it will probably depress the value of land currently on the market, too – though is that a bad thing?