Paper over the cracks
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