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Government must regain control of large-scale housing schemes, says report

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The UK government should wrest control over large-scale housing development from local authorities, according to a new report

The study, carried out by law firm Bond Dickinson and planning consultancy Quod, gauged opinion among housing and planning experts across the UK.

And it concluded that ministers should bring the biggest homes schemes under the remit of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, which currently speeds power stations, rail schemes and other infrastructure development through the planning system.

Kevin Gibbs, partner at Bond Dickinson, said: ‘This is a national crisis which needs a national solution. The principles of localism are laudable but the current planning system simply doesn’t ensure that local authorities will deliver housing on the scale we need.

‘There is a clear imperative for central government to lift restrictions on housing delivery and show strong political leadership in driving large-scale housing development in the national public interest.’

The NSIP regime, has approved 40 nationally significant infrastructure projects since its establishment in 2008, and could take pressure off local authority budgets, the report said.

One expert contributing to the report said that ‘no local authority is able to deal with applications of a big scale’ and that garden cities won’t happen without central intervention.

The report admitted that centralising decision-making on large housing schemes would likely prove controversial but said the NSIP regime would offer fixed timescales for decision making and a single consent process involving compulsory purchase powers.

It said: ‘Enabling successful private sector applicants to acquire land in the same way as the public sector means that the issue of major developments being ransomed by land owners could be avoided.

‘The critical constraint of land ownership would be overcome and the value generated could be invested in supporting infrastructure and affordable housing.’

Another contributor told the researchers: ‘I can’t see how you can explain to the man on the street why it’s so important to deliver nuclear power stations that we need to use the [NSIP] regime, but not housing.’

John Rhodes OBE, director at Quod, said: ‘With appropriate safeguards in place, the use of the NSIP regime would transform the ability of the private sector to make a meaningful contribution to the national housing crisis.’

Last week, Rhodes was appointed to an eight-strong government panel which will consider changes that would allow local authorities to get local plans in place quicker.

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