Planners in the North-west have scrapped a curb on housebuilding that has been stalling many developments.

The North-west’s housing boom
The North-west’s housing boom

The draft spatial strategy published by the North West Regional Assembly last week proposed a near doubling in the level of housing provision from 12,700 to 23,000 a year. The figure is significantly higher than the previous level of 16,500 completions in 2003.

The curb was designed to help ailing housing markets in the region’s four pathfinder areas.

Under the draft strategy housing provision will continue to be concentrated on pathfinder areas such as Manchester and Liverpool, which have also been prioritised as growth hubs in the government’s Northern Way renewal policy.

The biggest winner is Manchester, where the number of homes is set to nearly triple from 1350 a year to 3500. The number of proposed units in adjoining Salford, which is part of the same housing market renewal pathfinder, would rise threefold from 530 to 1600.

Liverpool is earmarked for 1900 homes, compared with 1150 now. At least 90% of development in the three cities must be on brownfield land, according to the strategy of the North West Regional Assembly.

But as part of an across-the-board rise in the proposed number of dwellings, the strategy proposes the idea of increased housing provision outside main conurbations.

Areas that have won smaller but relatively significant increases are those on the outskirts of the region’s cities, such as Bury in north Manchester.

It’s protecting brownfield sites but also acknowledging economics

Richard Woodford, HOW

Cumbria, subject to the restriction despite its distance from the housing market renewal areas, is also getting an increase in its allocation, as is affluent Cheshire.

“Housebuilders should be pleased with this, common sense has been applied,” said Richard Woodford, a director of planning consultant HOW in Manchester. He said: “It’s still protecting and encouraging brownfield sites, but it’s also acknowledging the links between housing and economic activity.” He emphasised that the figures were only in draft form.

Bill Fulster, strategic land director at Cheshire housebuilder Morris Homes, said: “It’s encouraging that the moratorium might start to be removed.” He claimed that the relaxation of curbs would not undermine, but “complement” the effort in the region’s four housing market pathfinder areas.

But Chris Brown, chief executive of the Igloo regeneration fund, said it was too early to end the policy given that many areas still needed upgrading.

Many local authorities in the North-west imposed moratoriums on new housing after the government reduced the region’s overall housing supply to help ensure the pathfinder areas

received priority. The councils imposed the restrictions because they found that they had exceeded their allocations.