An eagerly-awaited report on the nation’s housing crisis has given its backing to a key Farrell Review proposal on urban design.
The Labour Party-commissioned Lyons Housing Review has called for the creation of new local-authority-led housing development corporations, and for financial incentives for councils to deliver 500,000 homes in garden cities and garden suburbs.
Michael Lyons’ panel – which included Urban Splash co-founder Tom Bloxham - said the nation currently required the construction of 243,000 new homes a year to meet demand, but last year only delivered 109,000.
Amid models to accelerate delivery of new housing, including planning and infrastructure reforms and the introduction of narrower time limits for planning permissions to be built out, the review stresses the importance of good design.
It calls for the adoption of the Farrell Review’s recommendation of replacing design reviews with PLACE reviews, in which planning, landscape, architecture, conservation and engineering experts would assess development proposals.
The review says: ‘This emphasises the need for a collaborative model of place-shaping that is part of our everyday culture.
‘Securing good design can connect people to their place and own well-being. Farrell suggests that this logic should be applied to assessing the quality of existing places as well as new development, a proposal that the review supports.’
The review also calls for the adoption of nationwide space standards for new homes, and for the RIBA, the Local Government Association and other interest groups to develop a kitemark for ‘quality places’ that aims to reflect the views of both original and new residents.
Lyons Housing Review main proposals
- Create ‘Housing Growth Areas’, in which local authorities are given new powers and incentives to take a proactive approach to land assembly and development models;
- Allow local authorities to request the creation of locally-led ‘New Homes Corporations’, which would bring together housing associations, developers and investment partners, to bring ‘expertise and resources’ for ‘ambitious’ programmes of development;
- Promote a programme of garden cities, garden suburbs and remodelled towns and cities. Some developments would be delivered by new corporations using updated New Towns legislation. Treasury guarantees and financial incentives would be used to unlock development and deliver infrastructure;
- Ensure planning applications are built out more quickly by reducing the ‘life’ of a planning permission to two years and applying higher fees for renewal of expired permissions;
- Reduce the phenomenon of ‘land banking’ by allowing councils to levy a charge equivalent to council tax if land allocated in a plan with or without planning permission is not brought forward within five years.
- Space standards that are applicable applicable across all tenures should be introduced, as part of a ‘New National Housing Design Guide’ bringing all relevant RIBA and Design Council requirements together in one place; and
- Government should make a 2015 declaration reaffirming its commitment to a genuine zero carbon standard for new homes and setting out a clear trajectory for all homes to achieve this if further action is required beyond 2016.
Lyons said the nation faced its ‘biggest housing crisis in a generation’ that would require ‘strong leadership from central government alongside the delegation of powers and responsibility’to resolve.
He said: ‘The recommendations will make more land available for new homes; unlock investment in infrastructure; and ensure that new homes are built when and where they are needed in attractive, thriving places.
‘That will involve a more active role for local government in assembling land and in risk sharing partnerships with developers and landowners.’
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he endorsed the review’s proposals and would work to empower people to build homes where they were required, ensure that councils produced local plans that allocated enough land for new homes, and help first-time buyers get priority for new homes in their area.
British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said the Lyons review was a ‘sensible and comprehensive’ approach to the nation’s housing crisis.
‘On the whole the review shows a clear understanding of the major problems of the planning system, and how these impact on development,’ she said.
‘It would be fantastic to see other political parties commit to such a thorough and all-encompassing review.’
Town and Country Planning Association chief executive Kate Henderson said the emerging cross-party support for the creation of new garden cities was encouraging.
‘It is time to seize on this opportunity and deliver the homes and communities the nation needs,’ she said.
‘The Lyons Review has also been right to focus on the quality of new homes as well as the quantity. We particularly welcome recognition in the report for space standards, high quality design and zero carbon standards.’
John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council, said the review’s zero-carbon recommendation demonstrated that there did not need to be a trade-off between the quality and quantity of new homes.
‘Zero carbon homes are not only better for the environment, but reduce energy bills for householders and contribute to our energy security,’ he said.
Julia Evans, chief executive of the Building Services Research and Information Association, said the need to increase housing output should not be a reason for the development of inferior homes.
‘If we are to achieve the carbon reduction targets and provide homes that allow for affordable living it must be ensured that all new homes meet the highest standard,’ she said.
‘We are particularly pleased that the review has recommended that the government re-affirm its commitment to a genuine zero carbon standard for new homes - further action will be required beyond 2016, which will need to focus around the performance gap.’
Mike Leonard, chief executive of the Modern Masonry Alliance, applauded the review’s proposals for helping small builders.
‘Without the involvement of local builders and the increased availability of affordable housing for sale and rent we will not deliver the massive uplift in housing delivery by 2020 that we need to address the growing housing crisis,’ he said.
Lyons Housing Review backs key Farrell proposal