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Brown ups housebuilding policy

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Gordon Brown yesterday responded to the Barker Review of Housing, upping the planned number of new homes to be built in the UK to 200,000.

Speaking during his Pre-Budget Statement, the Chancellor told the House of Commons that there was an over-riding case for a massive acceleraion in housebuilding.

Brown said that it was essential that more new homes be built as a way to bring down prices and allow more people to afford their own properties.

He added that further reform was needed to planning, land-use and the construction industry if his targets were to be met.

Among the key reforms would be a new Planning Gain Supplement, which would in large part replace Section 106 agreements. He said this would allow for greater local investment in infrastructure to aid the formation of 'communities'.

However, the Chancellor's statement only won a lukewarm response from the RIBA.

'Our aim,' the Chancellor said yesterday, 'is for a new consensus across our country on the extension of homeownership and affordable housing - public and private sectors working and investing together to strengthen our economy, protect the environment and meet the housing needs not just of some but of all.'

But RIBA presidient Jack Pringle said afterwards that while the statement was welcome, there was still an area for concern.

'I welcome the Government's restated commitment to high-quality design for new housing development and urge Ministers to continue their efforts to streamline the planning system,' Pringle said.

'It's time to get off the fence on design codes and recognise that - in the right circumstances and with the right expertise - they can speed up the planning process and deliver excellent results through the full collaboration of local communities, designers and planners.

They should not be simplistic, formulaic or encourage pattern book design and must be sufficiently flexible to enable innovation and excellence and develop over time lest they become a dead hand and a recipe for undesirable conformity.

'If this goal cannot be achieved, we will need another solution to guide the planning community and speed up approvals,' Pringle added.

For futher analysis, see this week's AJ.

by Ed Dorrell

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