More houses–but not on the green belt

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Flora Watkins

LAST week, the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to fix Eng­land’s ‘bro­ken’ hous­ing mar­ket and build new af­ford­able homes. Some 250,000 new homes are needed ev­ery year, says Sec­re­tary for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Sa­jid Javid.

The Gov­ern­ment wants lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to de­velop ‘re­al­is­tic’ plans and its Hous­ing White Pa­per, re­leased last week, pri­ori­tises brown­field sites, sur­plus pub­lic land and es­tates ripe for re­gen­er­a­tion as op­por­tu­ni­ties for house­build­ing. Where land is short, coun­cils and de­vel­op­ers should build higher.

Mr Javid re­as­sured scep­tics that the new ap­proach to hous­ing ‘will not en­tail reck­lessly rip­ping up our coun­try­side’. In­deed, pro­tec­tions for the green belt re­main in place (Leader, Fe­bru­ary 8). Nor will higher-den­sity hous­ing mean a pro­lif­er­a­tion of un­sightly tower blocks, be­cause the White Pa­per gives lo­cals a greater say over the de­sign of new de­vel­op­ments.

The Gov­ern­ment also in­tends to speed up the house-build­ing process, in­tro­duce a Coun­cil Tax pre­mium of up to 50% on empty homes, make rent­ing fairer and di­ver­sify the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

The plans have been met with a mixed re­sponse. The CLA hails the pa­per as ‘a step for­ward’ for ru­ral hous­ing, al­though it has con­cerns about a hike in plan­ning fees. Both the CPRE and the Na­tional Trust commend the fo­cus on brown­field de­vel­op­ment and help­ing de­vel­op­ers to build homes faster.

‘The Gov­ern­ment’s as­sur­ance that it will not weaken green-belt pro­tec­tion is very wel­come,’ says the CPRE’S Paul Miner.

How­ever, Mr Miner con­tin­ues: ‘We must be care­ful that pro­posed changes to lo­cal plan­ning do not put more pres­sure on our green belt.’

On the other hand, some ex­perts, such as Naomi Heaton of Lon­don Cen­tral Port­fo­lio, feel the pa­per of­fers no rad­i­cal so­lu­tion. Nick Leem­ing of Jackson-stops & Staff laments that it doesn’t ad­dress Stamp Duty, which he per­ceives as a sig­nif­i­cant stum­bling block in to­day’s mar­ket.

Sav­ills’ Lucian Cook thinks that the key ques­tion is whether the new strat­egy will be achiev­able. ‘I see two ar­eas of ten­sion. The first is can [the Gov­ern­ment] de­liver on hous­ing when they’ve strictly ring-fenced the green belt? The se­cond is do the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have suf­fi­cient man­power to do all this?’ Carla Passino

AS PART of its bi­cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions, south Lon­don’s Dul­wich Pic­ture Gallery is to have its own pavil­ion, set to be a fix­ture of the sum­mer sea­son.

When it opened in 1817, Dul­wich Pic­ture Gallery (020–8693 5254; www.dul­wich­pic­ture­gallery.org.uk), de­signed by Sir John Soane, was the coun­try’s first pur­pose-built pub­lic art gallery. Now, his el­e­gant build­ing is to be joined, tem­po­rar­ily, by a mir­rored pavil­ion with a can­tilevered mesh roof. Open­ing in June, dur­ing the Lon­don Fes­ti­val of Ar­chi­tec­ture, the Dul­wich Pavil­ion will stage screen­ings, dance per­for­mances and work­shops, with a cock­tail bar.

The de­sign, by ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice IF_DO, beat that of 75; judges in­cluded out­go­ing di­rec­tor, Ian De­jardin.

‘With its chain mail dan­gling down from the roof, the canopy has a sort of wa­ter­colour ef­fect and the whole idea of mir­rors is per­fectly Soa­nian,’ says Mr De­jardin. Soane, he be­lieves, would have ap­proved.

Green-belt land has been pro­tected in the new Hous­ing White Pa­per, but ex­perts warn that the new plans may be tough to de­liver

The new Dul­wich pavil­ion was de­signed by British ar­chi­tec­ture firm IF_DO

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