Lord Kerslake says plans risk hit to affordable housing delivery

The former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake has added his voice to criticism of the proposed planning reforms laid out in this month’s planning white paper, saying they risk a “return to mono-tenure estates” and won’t deliver more homes.

The crossbench peer and chair of housing association Peabody said the planning system was not stopping more homes being built but warned the reforms such as those outlined could reduce the delivery of affordable housing and “have a significant impact on the quality of new homes in the future”.


The government set out proposals under which land zoned for “growth” would benefit from automatic outline planning permission, which would prevent authorities from contesting the principle of an individual application. In addition, the government said it will scrap the existing system of section 106 and CIL contributions to replace them with a flat-rate levy paid at point of occupation of homes.

But Kerslake (pictured), who was chief executive of the forerunner of housing quango Homes England prior to becoming head of the civil service, said the abolition of section 106 jeopardised the delivery of affordable housing.

Adding that section 106 delivered around half of all affordable homes last year, he said: “For me, this [abolition of section 106] poses a real risk to new social housing delivery as part of high quality, mixed tenure schemes in the future.

“With commuted sums, you do not get genuinely mixed development but end up with segregated communities. A return to the mono-tenure estates of the past should be resisted by everyone concerned with the built environment.”

Kerslake described the fact the 84-page white paper did not mention once the need for genuinely affordable rented homes as a “startling and troubling omission”.

Refuting the idea that the planning system overall was holding up the delivery of more homes, Kerslake said the current system delivered planning approval in the vast majority of cases, in the time allotted but that around a million existing permissions were unimplemented. Instead he pointed to the conclusion of the government-commissioned Letwin Review, that the market absorption rate of new homes for sale was the biggest limiting factor on increasing housing delivery.

He said: “Increasing supply, reducing demand, and lowering house prices is not on [housebuilders’] agenda. This is not a criticism of the private sector, it is just an observation of the reality.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said the reforms will cut red tape and create better quality homes. The planning white paper follows on from a significant expansion of permitted development rights by the government.