- Is Osborne getting radical?
The Chancellor’s recent Mansion House speech includes one statement that appears, at face value, to be so dramatic that I’m struggling to believe that he’s serious – or to comprehend why the reaction in the press has been so muted.
Talking about the pressing need to deliver a substantial increase in the number of new homes, George Osborne said:
“… If we want to limit development of important green spaces, we have to remove all the obstacles that remain to development on brown field sites.
Today, we do that with these radical steps.
Councils will be required to put Local Development Orders on over 90% of brownfield sites that are suitable for housing. This urban planning revolution will mean that in effect development on these sites will be pre-approved – local authorities will be able to specify the type of housing, not whether there is housing.
And it will mean planning permission for up to 200,000 new homes – while at the same time protecting our green spaces…”
Now, for anyone unfamiliar with Local Development Orders, they are effectively site- or locality-specific extension to Permitted Development rights.
In other words, so long as it’s housing, you can build what you want. At a basic level, this would mean no control whatsoever over design standards, or supporting infrastructure.
And there’s the rub...
Anyone with half an ounce of sense will recognise that to allow such a complete lack of control over development would be madness, so it won’t happen.
I confidently predict that Local Planning Authorities will see an immediate opportunity to exploit the weasel-words potential of the Chancellor’s phrase ‘brownfield sites that are suitable for housing’. They will then spend the next 5 years or so carefully analysing and writing development briefs for any available brownfield land under their aegis, by which time common sense will have prevailed and/or we’ll have had a change of Government, and the whole idea will be quietly forgotten before anyone actually has to do anything as drastic as actually implementing one of these dreaded Local Development Orders.
But if I’m wrong, we could be in for an interesting time…
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