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Chancellor Brown's spending hike slammed as 'too small'

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Critics have attacked Gordon Brown's plans to boost housebuilding, as set out in his Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), for not going far enough, writes Ed Dorrell.

As predicted by the AJ (4.7.02), the chancellor, in his speech on Monday, highlighted a new planning policy as an essential tool for solving the housing crisis and announced a hike in extra funds for affordable housing. However, the planning and housebuilding lobbies have blasted the government's wide-ranging new policies for falling short.

The CSR outlined an increase in the housing budget to £5.9 billion in the next three years, a 105 per cent increase on 1997. This extra cash will be split between planning departments and the Housing Corporation, which will distribute it to housing associations for new homes.

It is also understood that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will confirm - in a statement about the planning policy paper, expected as the AJ went to press - that he will hand large swathes of the planning process to regional development agencies, removing power from local authorities.

The increased housing budget also contains a hike in spending of £1 billion on this revamped planning process. This will be used to recruit, train and retain new planning officers as a way of speeding up the application process.

Most controversially, Prescott is expected to give his backing to a massive housebuilding programme in the South East. He is expected to support four main housebuilding zones: Ashford in Kent; Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire; Stansted in Essex; and the Thames Gateway in east London.

However, while the housebuilding industry welcomed the government's new determination to solve the massive housing shortage, many questioned the size of its financial commitment.

Town and Country Planning Association director Gideon Amos attacked the size of the increased budget. He said: 'We are pleased that the budget has increased but it does not go nearly far enough.

'The last time we were building houses on the scale that we need them was in the early '80s when the budget was nearly £10 billion, ' he added.

The House Builders Federation's head of public affairs, Pierre Williams, agreed: 'While we are pleased that the government recognises that there is a problem that needs extra cash, there is no way that this increase will be enough to reverse 20 years of under-investment.'

PRP Architects chairman Barry Munday said:

'At first, the promised extra cash for affordable housing and reforms to the planning systems are welcome news.However, the extra money over the four years falls well short of what is needed.'

RIBA president Paul Hyett welcomed the 'bricks and mortar' review but urged government to ensure excellent public building quality follows.

Other increases include additional funds for school improvements and an increased budget for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

For details and updates see ajplus. co. uk

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