Standardised housing need measure to decide infrastructure spend


Ministers have pledged to align strategic infrastructure spending with house building by targeting the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at areas with the greatest housing need. 

The long-awaited Housing White Paper, published on Tuesday (7 February), suggests a 'standardised approach' to assessing housing need could form the basis of future infrastructure funding decisions, with this change reflected in planned reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Government will consult 'on options for introducing a standardised approach to assessing housing requirements' and will publish a consultation on it 'at the earliest opportunity this year, with the outcome reflected in changes to the National Planning Policy Framework'.

Ministers have also called on councils to make the most of forthcoming transport schemes like HS2, as they try to boost the supply of new homes in England.

Governments 'have failed to align new infrastructure with new housing'

Housing minister Gavin Barwell said: ‘We are setting out lasting reforms that will get more of the right homes built in the right places, right now.’

Arguing that previous governments have failed to align new infrastructure with new housing, the paper states: ‘We will target the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at the areas of greatest housing need.’

The document states that this capital grant programme will open to bids in 2017, with money available over the next four years ‘to fund a variety of infrastructure projects (including transport and utilities) where these will unlock the delivery of new homes’.

The paper states that funding decisions are likely to factor in whether authorities intend to apply the proposed ‘new standardised approach to assessing housing requirements’.

This suggests that when the new assessment methodology is in place, probably by 2018/19, it will be used to assess bids for housing infrastructure cash.

On strategic infrastructure like HS2, the paper proposes amending national policy so planning authorities ‘are expected to identify the development opportunities that such investment offers at the time funding is committed, and make it clear that when they review their plans they should seek to maximise the potential capacity unlocked by major new infrastructure’.

Cllr Anne Western, leader of Derbyshire County Council and spokeswoman for the County Councils Network, said: ‘This paper recognises that planning and infrastructure is not aligned, and provides a useful starting point to overcome these challenges.’

‘An increased focus on strategic planning could break down the barriers between planning and infrastructure which has held up development; allaying local fears over major house building, targeting development to the most appropriate areas, and enabling the correct infrastructure so local communities do not feel extra pressure on public services and roads.’

The White Paper also reiterates the Government’s existing approach of ‘maximising the contribution from brownfield’ and ‘maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt’.

Other pledges include holding local authorities to account through a new housing delivery test and ‘supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes’

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