Planners will be able to build estates of 50 homes without setting aside any for affordable housing, charities warn

Amy Jones
·3-min read
Ministers have been urged to scrap the plans by a coalition of charities - Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Ministers have been urged to scrap the plans by a coalition of charities - Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Developers will be able to build estates of 50 homes without setting any aside for affordable housing under the Government’s controversial planning reforms, a coalition of charities has warned.

In a letter to the Telegraph, the chief executives of Shelter and CPRE, the countryside charity, argue that the plans should be scrapped because they do not deliver the type of housing that “communities are crying out for".

Research has shown that in rural and affluent areas, affordable housing could fall by half under the proposals put forward by ministers last month.

Co-authors CPRE’s Crispin Truman and Shelter’s Polly Neate said: "As a coalition of organisations, we share an ambition for a planning system that is empowered to deliver high quality and genuinely affordable homes, including homes for social rent.

“However, we fear the Government’s planning proposals simply cannot deliver the affordable homes communities are crying out for. In fact, some of the proposals being fast-tracked by the government to come into force in the near future will move us further from this vision rather than closer to it.”

The letter - which has been co-signed by representatives from charities including The Wildlife Trusts, Greenpeace UK and Friends Of The Earth - argues that removing the need to build affordable housing on smaller projects “cannot be right at a time when social house building has plummeted to its lowest levels for 40 years and when more than one million households languish on social housing waiting lists".

It comes after analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) found that if the duty to build affordable housing on sites of up to 50 homes had been scrapped five years ago, 30,000 fewer homes would have been built.

The LGA warned that rural and wealthy areas would be worst affected. In Elmbridge in Surrey, where the average house price is over £760,000, the number of affordable homes built would have fallen by 55 per cent over the five year period.

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “At a time when rural homelessness is soaring, it’s almost unthinkable that the Government is considering changes to planning that would reduce the number of quality affordable homes being built.

“It’s clear that the countryside will be hardest hit, further deepening the rural affordable housing crisis. Rural councils are predicting a fall of up to 50 per cent in affordable homes unless the Government radically rethinks the proposals and puts people back at the heart of planning.”

Shelter’s Ms Neate added: “This plan would mean expanding loopholes that allow developers to get away with not building the genuinely affordable homes so many families are crying out for.”

The Government has previously faced criticism from its own MPs over the reforms, who fear that a new "mutant" algorithm, which would be used to set building targets, would "suburbanise the countryside".

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “This letter is misleading and does not reflect our proposals to reform the planning system, which include a simpler developer levy that will deliver at least as much affordable housing as we have today.

“We’ve proposed a short-term 18-month support programme for small and medium-sized developers that will help them weather the pandemic and come back building more affordable homes.

Our £11.5 billion affordable homes investment programme announced just last month is the biggest in a decade and will deliver up to 180,000 new affordable homes across the country, on top of the 486,000 new affordable homes the government has delivered since 2010.”