Responding to the Government's announcement on housing and planning, Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
"The stalled economy is stifling demand in the housing market, and much-needed development is being held up because buyers can't buy and developers can't sell.
"We urgently need to improve access to mortgages and finance for development. The Government's stimulus package for house building and support for first-time buyers is recognition of that.
"Local authorities are overwhelmingly saying ‘yes' to new development. There are enough approvals in the system for 400,000 new homes and more than three years of building. The latest figures on councils' planning approval rates show that they are at a 10-year high, and have accelerated since the National Planning Policy Framework was introduced earlier in the year. The planning system is clearly not the problem.
"Removing affordable housing requirements will not make it easier for developers to sell houses more cheaply, and so will not address the underlying wider economic issues that are stalling development.
"The perception that councils are asking for unaffordable ‘nice to have' add-ons through these requirements is wrong. In addition to much-needed affordable housing, section 106 agreements also fund roads and even new schools to support developments. There will be no economic growth if the people who live in the new houses haven't got a road to get them to work, or if we don't build social houses for low-paid workers.
"Councils are being flexible and, where appropriate, have already renegotiated some deals which would otherwise have stalled. Those local renegotiations are the best way of sorting out problems where developers are in difficulty. It will undermine local people's confidence in the planning system if developers can go running to Whitehall at the first hint of trouble.
"There is also a danger that reopening agreements to fund vital local projects would endanger the current record levels of willingness to give consent to development for the future. The Government has to be careful to avoid creating a situation which could mire future planning decisions in acrimonious challenges and judicial reviews which could slow the planning approval process.
"Any amendments to local planning rules, such as making it easier for residents to make changes to their homes, must ensure councils retain enough powers to maintain and improve the character and integrity of local areas."
LGA On the Day Briefing: Housing and Growth – 6th September 2012
Building backlog of new homes hits 400,000: 6 September 2012
Mapping unimplemented planning permissions by local authority area
Planning for growth: LGA briefing 4 September 2012
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: Local Government Association Media Office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333
13 September 2012