by David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for
Talk about housing and you have to talk about infrastructure.
That may sound an obvious statement, but is it? Many objections to
new housing schemes are often centred on the fear that the
surrounding roads won't cope, schools will be over-subscribed and
there simply won't be enough facilities to cater for additional
residents. And in some cases, those fears are completely justified.
To overcome this, we need infrastructure to go hand in hand with
housing and that means moving it much further up the planning
Housing quality doesn't just impact quality of life, it affects
economic growth as well. But high-quality housing isn't just about
design and architecture, it's about creating neighbourhoods. New
homes have to be supported by facilities that make people's lives
easier and more fulfilling - in turn, helping to attract and retain
people that will make communities, villages and towns prosper.
To achieve that, there needs to be change.
We need to recast planning policy so that infrastructure
provision forms a key part of the permission. Any plans for new
housing developments must include a range of services and
facilities that will help that development thrive and make it
attractive to existing communities. And those potential benefits
need to be tabled, discussed and debated right at the start of the
On top of that, any form of planning gain must be specific to a
particular scheme. That way, local people can see what
infrastructure is being proposed for their area from the start.
This would offer a more targeted and effective incentive than just
the possibility of new homes, as well as a transparent mechanism
for delivering infrastructure and responding to residents'
And, if we can continue to strengthen the connection between
housing and infrastructure, there is also an argument that
large-scale housing schemes should be considered as 'nationally
significant' in the same way as major developments in the
transport, waste and water sectors are. Housing could then be added
to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project process and
determined by PINS rather than local authorities.
Of course infrastructure also needs significant investment.
Limited investment has been a major blocker to financing new
developments and settlements. But there are signs that this is
starting to change with Legal and General being the first to
announce a major £252m
investment in helping to solve the UK's housing and
infrastructure crisis. We are confident that this move will pave
the way for other institutions to help contribute towards the
national housing crisis.
Changes to our planning system won't happen overnight, but we
will continue to strive for it. Marrying infrastructure with new
housing, stimulating investment and giving more people a voice
could result in major changes that will benefit existing
communities as well as future generations.
23 April 2014