Pa­per over the cracks

The Jewish Chronicle - - CLASSIFIED -

THE GOV­ERN­MENT’S plans for hous­ing seem to be pitched firmly at the res­i­dents of north Lon­don. Key points in the white pa­per ad­dress many hous­ing is­sues found in the cap­i­tal, such as in­cen­tives for build-to-let and main­tain­ing green belt pro­tec­tion.

One of the pro­pos­als is to en­cour­age older peo­ple to move to smaller prop­er­ties. This will suit de­vel­op­ers such as Heron­slea, which builds flats for down­siz­ers in what Jason Rishover, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, calls “Lon­don’s su­per­sub­urbs”. There is only one apart­ment left to sell in Heron­slea’s White House in Bushey Heath, sell­ing at £729,950 through Preston Ben­nett.

The White House has done well — the white pa­per is not so pop­u­lar.

Jeremy Leaf, es­tate agent and for­mer res­i­den­tial chair­man of the Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors, says: “We now want to see a strict, ver­i­fi­able timetable for de­liv­ery on all fronts. Whether it is the is­sues with let­tings or sup­ply or in­fra­struc­ture, de­liv­ery or plan­ning, we want to see what is go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.

“What would be re­fresh­ing and of im­mense value would be a cross-party po­lit­i­cal agree­ment, so we don’t see the booms and busts and stops and starts that have dogged hous­ing pol­icy in the past... A co­her­ent, re­spected, long-term pol­icy which in­volves build- ing more houses and keep­ing prices in check would go a long way to solv­ing the bro­ken hous­ing mar­ket.”

The white pa­per aims to force de­vel­op­ers to start build­ing within two years of se­cur­ing plan­ning per­mis­sion and pro­poses a £3 bil­lion fund to help small builders de­liver more homes.

Paul Isaacs, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Gen­er­a­tor Group, a res­i­den­tial de­vel­oper, says: “There is very lit­tle chance of hit­ting the tar­get of de­liv­er­ing one mil­lion new homes by 2020, equat­ing to 300,000 per an­num, un­less there are rad­i­cal changes to the plan­ning sys­tem.

“L o c a l a u t h o r i - ties em­ploy qual­i­fied and skilled of­fi­cers to ac­cess plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions, which they rig­or­ously re­view and chal­lenge de­vel­op­ers on, to en­sure they are meet­ing strin­gent plan­ning pol­icy/guid­ance, be­fore then mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to plan­ning com­mit­tees on whether to ap­prove or de­cline ap­pli­ca­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese com­mit­tees are sim­ply not aligned with plan­ning of­fi­cers and the plan­ning sys­tem. Here, in this part of the process, de­ci­sions are based on pol­i­tics and the de­sire to be re- elected. Un­til this con­flict, which has ex­isted as long as I can re­mem­ber, is re­formed, hous­ing de­liv­ery is go­ing to con­tinue to be ham­pered.”

Sa­jid Javid MP, Sec­re­tary of State for com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal gov­ern­ment, be­lieves lack of hous­ing is “the big­gest sin­gle bar­rier to so­cial progress in Bri­tain to­day”. Ini­tia­tives by for­mer Lon­don Mayor Boris John­son to kick­start de­vel­op­ment in Wem­b­ley and Edg­ware have been part of the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach in the past but prop­erty pro­fes­sion­als say more needs to be done.

Isaacs says: “At Gen­er­a­tor Group, we have the op­por­tu­nity to com­mence the de­liv­ery of 735 new homes (a mix­ture of af­ford­able and pri­vate de­vel­op­ment) this year but of th­ese, 333 units (45 per cent) are cur­rently de­layed in the plan­ning sys­tem. We are just one small house­builder, so if you mul­ti­ply this across the coun­try then I sus­pect this will equate to a very big num­ber that would with­out ques­tion help to ad­dress the cur­rent hous­ing short­age.”

Leaf adds: “‘The pro­pos­als in the white pa­per sound great but we have heard it all be­fore. Talk­ing is all well and good but what about ac­tion — what will it ac­tu­ally mean for the builders, the plan­ners, the ar­chi­tects, the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and of course the buy­ers in the near fu­ture?”

What we re­ally need is a cross-party agree­ment’

Down­sizer ap­peal: Heron­slea’s The White House, £729,950 via Preston Ben­nett

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