The Government announces a new era of regeneration, inner-city densification and housing delivery across England…
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove have set out further plans for tackling the housing crisis.
Following the Levelling Up White Paper commitment to regenerate 20 places, three areas were highlighted as next in line for targeted action: Cambridge, inner-city London and central Leeds.
The proposals for Cambridge are designed to see the city become ‘Europe’s science capital’. Plans will address the issues constraining that title, including expensive property markets, limited lab space and high commercial property prices.
Plans for Cambridge envision new sustainable neighbourhoods, a quarter for cutting-edge laboratories and commercial developments, and life science facilities.
The government will deliver as much of the infrastructure and affordable housing as possible using land value capture – with the local area benefiting from the significant increase in land values that can occur when agricultural land is permitted for residential and commercial development.
A Cambridge Delivery Group will drive the project, leading on identifying the housing, infrastructure, services and green space required – along with delivery. Immediate action will address barriers to plans such as water scarcity across the city.
In addition to Cambridge, the government also announced a ‘Docklands 2.0’ vision in east London for up to 65,000 homes across multiple sites of significant scale including at Thamesmead, Beckton and Silvertown.
The plan states London will also see the benefits of the government’s decision to allow the Affordable Homes Programme to be directed towards regeneration for the first time – with up to £1 billion available in London alone. £1 million has also been made available to push forward work with the Mayor to consider how the government drive housing delivery in London, including looking at innovative new ways that industrial land can be released for housing.
For Leeds, the government will accelerate work in the centre by identifying the remaining barriers to delivery for key housing growth sites within the city, including the South Bank and Innovation Arc.
Also outlined were plans to continue working closely with local partners in Barrow-in-Furness to help make it a new powerhouse of the North.
That includes £800 million investment from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land fund to unlock up to 56,000 new homes across England, and funding Homes England with £550 million. As previously announced, £250 million is being provided to Greater Manchester and West Midlands Combined Authorities.
Alongside targeting areas, the government wants to unleash building on underused sites in high-demand regions via densification. They state that the country’s inner cities have much lower population densities than comparable Western countries, impacting our productivity.
The densification plan therefore includes: a consultation on new Permitted Development Rights (PDR). New and amended PDR would make it easier to convert larger department stores, space above shops and office space. The plan also supports farm diversification and development.
Taking steps to unblock the bottlenecks in the planning system with a £24 million Planning Skills Delivery Fund to clear backlogs, a new “super-squad” team of leading planners to unblock major housing developments, and increasing the amount developers pay in planning fees to ensure all planning departments are better resourced.
The government says it will not be complacent in its approach to safety – recognising that, “as work progresses to densify our towns and cities, people must be given unimpeachable confidence that new homes are safe and decent to live in.”
The government confirmed the intention to mandate second staircases in new residential buildings above 18m. It states this new regulation cannot jeopardise the supply of homes by disrupting schemes that have been planned for years, saying the DLUHC will work rapidly with industry and regulators over the summer to design transitional arrangements with the aim of securing the viability of projects which are already underway.
They will also open the Cladding Safety Scheme to all eligible buildings, ensuring that no leaseholder will be out of pocket to fix dangerous cladding in medium or high-rise buildings.