In the wake of the Chancellor’s budget announcements to boost housing and provide new infrastructure, a report published today warns the government that it needs to monitor the effectiveness of changes it has made to national planning policy, to ensure we are building new homes in the right places, close to jobs and supported by infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and sustainable transport.
The report Location of development: Mapping planning permissions for housing in twelve English city-regions was carried out on behalf of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) by Bilfinger GVA, one of the UK’s largest commercial property advisors. It is the largest study of its kind, mapping over 165,000 new homes granted planning permission across 12 English towns and cities between 2012 and 2015. An analysis of their location reveals that almost 75% were within reach of major employment opportunities, but only 13% within easy walking distance of a railway station.
Phil Williams, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said: “With the government devolving powers to towns and cities, we need to ensure that housing, employment and infrastructure is properly coordinated to deliver sustainable growth. Our research scrutinised over 700 housing schemes and while it is encouraging that the majority of new homes are currently being built close to jobs, many are not.”
“Many growing areas already suffer from congestion and lack of infrastructure capacity and poorly located housing would make these problems worse. Given the current need to increase housing supply, we think it is crucial to monitor these trends and make sure that new housing is built in the right places.”
“No one has been examining the effectiveness of the changes the government made to national planning policy in 2012 which are now shaping patterns of housing growth. This report takes an important first step. This should be a role for government. Ultimately, we may need greater emphasis within national planning policy on the importance of ‘location’ as an important factor in determining development. Monitoring current delivery and performance beyond the numbers of planning permissions is essential to delivering sustainable homes for our communities.”
“We limited our study to the relationship between homes, employment and rail, metro or trams stations, but there are many other factors that make for a sustainable location and these also need to be taken into account.”
Joanna Averley, Director of Planning, Development and Regeneration, Bilfinger GVA, said: “We were delighted to support the RTPI with this research. As we know creating sustainable patterns of development is a complex process in the UK, given historic patterns of growth and infrastructure, such as proximity to employment clusters and public transport options. Therefore being able to consider the cumulative impact of planning permissions on the shape of our urban areas is very valuable. The study provides an important contribution to the debate about the scale of development and location of new homes in the English city-regions. Within the limits of the methodology, it indicates which cities are notably responding to the economic growth in their wider catchment area.”
The research also found that of schemes comprising of at least 50 housing units, around 50% of these developments were of 450 units or more.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in 2012, revised planning policy into a single, much reduced document of just 65 pages. While there is evidence at the national level on the number of planning permissions for housing, the same is not true for where they are and the scale of developments.
The direction of major Government policies, such as new funding and devolution powers for cities, its plans to allow ‘permission in principle’ on brownfield land and the way employment is increasingly being concentrated into major regional ‘clusters’ highlights why it is crucial we get new homes built in the right places over the next decade.