1 August 2019

Channel 4 show overlooks localism as barrier to more homes

On the 100-year anniversary of the Addison Act and airing on Channel 4, ‘George Clarke’s Council House Scandal’ succinctly laid out the reasons that Britain needs to build more social housing.

With so few council homes built in the last 40 years and very many sold off without being replaced, George recommends that Right to Buy should be temporarily stopped and that 100,000 council homes should be built every year for the next 30 years.

However, George’s ambition and petition fails to mention how these homes actually get built or, more importantly, how localism stops them from being built.

If the Government supported the petition, which the House Builders Association (HBA) has, it would need to remove many of the planning powers that local councils and people have become used to.

This is because councils struggle with the political pressure to meet existing targets. In fact they are so far behind, that the Government has imposed a Housing Delivery Test, with sanctions, if councils do not meet minimum expectations.

Councils already have the power and in many cases, the land, to deliver many more social homes. Yet most housing associations, community land trusts and self builders already complain that getting a planning permission is extremely difficult, even if your site is allocated in the local plan.

Many land owners would gladly offer land, or sub-divide large sites for social housing, if they could get planning more quickly, or at all.

Local political pressures are so overriding that even Brighton, which has called for a climate emergency and has seen two Green administrations in the last nine years, will not back onshore wind or solar farms. Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the HBA, said:

“The only way we built 246,000 homes this year was because permitted development and Homes England took political and strategic pressures away from local planners. Most councils aren’t prepared to fight local opposition. George Clarke’s ambition is admirable but he needed to explain to viewers that the only realistic way to build three million council homes over thirty years, is to reject localism and take planning powers away from councils.”