Published On: Tue, Oct 30th, 2012

Government must speed up plans to simplify housing regulation and planning says NLA

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A call for the Government to speed up its plans for a ‘bonfire of the regulations’ is a key message of the exhibition Housing London, opened by Deputy Mayor Richard Blakeway recently. The exhibition at NLA – London’s Centre for the Built Environment – explores the design and delivery of new homes in the capital and runs until 21 December.

The exhibition highlights the fact that London is not building the number of homes it needs, so action cannot be delayed. There must be urgent and comprehensive rationalisation of the overlapping and conflicting requirements in guidance and standards such as Lifetime Homes, Secure by Design, Code for Sustainable Homes, Building for Life as well as Building Regulations and planning requirements. This duplication of regulation is adding to costs and delaying projects.

In addition, local authority planning departments need to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding planning applications. A typical example is that of a scheme of 36 homes where the developer was required to provide a mass of information – architects’ indicative designs including landscaping, topographical site survey, ecology report, transport assessment, design and access statement, planning statement, acoustic assessment, flood risk assessment, sunlight and daylight assessment, air quality assessment  and pre-application meeting fees – before the planners were prepared to engage in any discussion of what they might allow on the site.“For clients to have to pay for all this work before they are even able to speak to the planners makes it harder to get schemes off the ground,” says Peter Murray Chairman of NLA. “De-regulation of the delivery of housing can be implemented without affecting the quality of the end product. Housing Minister Mark Prisk was previously at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and responsible for reducing regulation across business, so he should know what’s involved.”

London needs more homes because it is growing. Latest research in the Housing London exhibition shows that 7.9 million people (3.3 million households) live in the capital now, and that number is expected to grow to 9.1 million by 2031. The capital needs to build 36,000 new homes per year but is currently only managing 20,000.

On top of that there are 880,000 people in London on council housing waiting lists, 224,000 households currently live in overcrowded accommodation and 35,600 households are classed as homeless and in temporary accommodation, three-times the national average.

The average age of a first-time house-buyer is now 32 – three years older than elsewhere in the UK. The average house price in London is now £364,000, 55 per cent above that of the average for England. As a result renting is growing. 25 per cent of people were in the private rental sector in 2010-2011 (an increase of 6 per cent since 2000), with social renting taking up 24 per cent.

In the context of this challenging landscape, the NLA exhibition looks at how well the capital is

keeping up with its targets, the funding and policy context, how new homes are being delivered across a range of local authorities in the capital, exemplar projects, and new and imaginative ideas for designing and delivering new homes for London.

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