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Planning White Paper – what a missed opportunity!

October 21, 2020 1:50 PM
By Julian Brazil

housing in countrysideThe average house price is more than 11 times the average income in the South Hams. If we want young working families to remain here something has to change, writes Julian Brazil, Chair of the Development Management Committee at South Hams District Council.

Our local infrastructure already struggles to cope with the extra pressure of new development. And housing numbers are imposed on us from central government. The latest white paper on planning was an opportunity for change. What a missed opportunity! Far from solving the issues we face; it just amplifies the problems.

The white paper would increase the number of new houses to be built from 324 to 769 each year, every year. More than double the present requirement. Local people would lose their right to object to these new housing developments. And any development under 40 houses would have to make no provision for affordable housing. In short, more houses, fewer affordable homes and no local input.

What we do need are more houses in the right places for local families. But how do we achieve that here in the South Hams?

A list in no particular order and by no means exhaustive:

  • The Council should start a programme of house building at genuinely affordable rents.
  • New houses to be sold at discounted prices, between 50%-60%, with the discount held in perpetuity.
  • More creative use of exception sites including single plots and self builds. And government needs to help.
  • Removing the obscene increase in land value when planning permission or likewise is granted.
  • Stopping right-to-buy and buy-to-let.
  • Allowing local councils to charge double council tax for second homes.
  • Closing the loophole of domestic properties switching to business rates.

A new approach to planning policy could start to address our broken housing market. It needs to be based on need not greed. Houses should be looked at as somewhere to live, not a financial investment. The planning white paper is an abject failure to address these issues.

Julian Brazil
Lib Dem District Councillor for Stokenham and County Councillor for Kingsbridge