Quicker ‘brown field’ housing approvals to boost UK productivity

Developers could get automatic permission to build houses on ‘brown field’ sites across Britain under plans unveiled by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

housebuilding on brownfield site
Government officials will also be able to step in and grant housing development approvals if local councils are deemed to be dragging their feet, and derelict sites suitable for development could be compulsorily purchased under beefed-up regulations.The measures were unveiled as part of the government's 'Fixing the Foundations' initiatives, which are primarily aimed at boosting the UK's poor productivity record."Britain has been incapable of building enough homes," said Mr Osborne. "The reforms we made to the planning system in the last parliament have started to improve the situation: planning permissions and housing starts are at a seven-year high."But we need to go further and I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can't do so. We'll keep on protecting the green belt, but these latest planning reforms are a vital part of a comprehensive plan to confront the challenge of our lifetime and raise productivity and living standards."However, analysts questioned whether building more houses was the most effective way of improving productivity, saying improvements to the nation's infrastructure would be more efficacious.Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation think-tank, said, "I think if I was thinking about a productivity plan, housing wouldn't be the first issue I would leap to."There are also questions over whether or not brown field land exists – land that has previously been developed but is vacant or derelict – available to meet the UK's housing needs.Business Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC that the 141,000 new homes built last year represented only a fraction of those needed."Local people will still have control over planning," he said. "The point of this is to make sure we build more homes, that local people are still rightly involved in those decisions and we find ways to speed it up."The green belt can be rightly protected. There is plenty of land which is not green belt that we can build on and which is suitable for housing and we need to get on with it. We need to find new ways to encourage it."On the question of whether or not building new homes will help boost productivity, a Treasury spokesman said workers were more productive the closer they lived to their jobs.However, many believe that increasing airport capacity and improving Britain rail and road infrastructure could play a bigger part in upping UK productivity.And Prof Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, described the proposals as a step towards the "nationalisation of planning decisions" and a shift away from the localism agenda of the last, coalition government.For more Re:locate news and features about UK business and enterprise, click here

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