The much-anticipated Letwin Report has taken a significant step forward in considering the housing crisis, suggesting a major overhaul in delivery. Scott Winnard, partner at national property consultancy Bruton Knowles, reviews whether the report reflects the complex nature of housing delivery?
The report, published at the end of October by Sir Oliver Letwin, has been widely welcomed by the property industry and reviewed in some detail by the specialist team at Bruton Knowles, as it highlights key research and recommendations for solving the housing crisis and improving the rate of ‘build out’.
With some larger housebuilding sites taking 15 years to complete, the report is aimed at closing the significant gap between housing completions and land allocated, by speeding up the process of building and selling homes.
To achieve this, the report has called for new rules for potential sites of more than 1,500 homes. These rules would provide local planning authorities, in areas of high housing demand, with the power to control and design housebuilding projects in designated areas, to help meet requirements quickly and efficiently.
Recommendations also suggest that local authorities should have the ability to forcibly purchase this land at a price, which reflects the value of those sites, after receiving planning permission and a master plan.
While the report is perceived as positive by directly addressing the housing crisis, I would have preferred to see more recognition given to the complex nature of compulsory purchase orders and delivery.
It is generally accepted that planning surrounding larger housebuilding sites can be problematic, but the use of a compulsory purchase order is likely to result in objections and delay, as it is a lengthy and intricate process.
The report also suggests that local development companies should be used by local authorities. However, this might hinder the process. In Bruton Knowles’ experience, it is the private commercial operators and a good housing market that dictates the speed of delivery.
In reality, setting up the necessary vehicles and procurement partners to meet these recommendations will take some time. The Government has to take these considerations on board, if it is to achieve the Letwin Report’s aim, when it is reviewed in February 2019.
If the Government agrees such proposals in the review, landowners, who have contracted a promoter to achieve planning on their land, may find these agreements no longer work.
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