It says there must be new powers for local communities to build homes in places people want to live, that councils must produce a home building plan and allocate sufficient land for development and first time buyers should get priority access to new homes.
The review says local communities should have the power to build the homes in places people want to live. Councils will be able to designate ‘housing growth areas’ and will have powers to assemble land and give certainty that building will take place.
They will also ensure on larger developments the planning gain that results will in part be used to invest in the schools, roads, green spaces and GP surgeries that make developments possible.
It also says councils should be compelled to produce a home building plan and allocate sufficient land for development. Labour says if it wins the general election next year it will make it mandatory for local authorities to produce a local plan to meet the housing needs of the community. If they do not allocate sufficient land or present a plan, the planning inspectorate will have powers to step-in to ensure the housing need is not ignored.
The third main recommendation is that first time buyers from an area should get priority access to new homes. Councils would be given the power to reserve a proportion of homes built in ‘housing growth areas’ for first time buyers from the area for a period of two months. In addition, local authorities will be able to restrict the sale of homes in these areas so they cannot be sold for buy to let or buy to leave empty properties.
The changes identified have been widely welcomed. According to Susan Emmett, residential research director of Savills the recommendations should help boost housing numbers regardless of who is in government next year.
‘The report clearly recognises the need for a long term, more strategic approach to planning for homes, integrating housing with infrastructure and increasing the number of players operating in the market,’ she said.
‘While we expect that large house builders will continue to provide the bulk of new homes, Lyons’ recommendations for supporting smaller builders and helping Local Authorities to build more is crucial if we are to increase overall housing numbers,’ she explained.
‘We also welcome the report’s recognition that we need to be delivering homes across all tenures including homes for rent. We expect to see the number of people renting continue to grow and supporting institutional investors to build to rent is essential to provide the good quality homes needed,’ she added.
The British Property Federation (BPF) described it as a ‘sensible and comprehensive’ report and has urged all political parties to undertake similar reviews. It also praised the review for its thorough approach to scrutinising the planning process.
In particular, of note is the focus on enforcing and delivering local plans as the BPF regards these as fundamental to an area’s growth. It welcomed the plan for local authorities to face intervention from the Planning Inspectorate if they do not plan sufficiently.
It also signalled out the requirement for local plans to include a private rented sector provision and the commitment to encouraging institutional investment in the housing sector through clearly agreed local partnerships and plans as wells as an increased focus on delivery and funding from the Homes and Communities Agency, which will help boost the build to rent sector.
There will also be flexibility for large scale schemes, giving local authorities further powers to lift the pooling restriction on significant schemes, as well as continuing to allow them to exempt such schemes from CIL and the return of regional planning, which is a sensible compromise between a top-down approach and localised planning.
However, the so called ‘use it or lose it’ proposals, which would reduce planning permissions from three to two years, and charge local authorities council tax on sites not developed within a certain time frame, did cause some concern. The reduction in planning permission time is particularly problematic in a downturn, as it could lead to a year long hiatus in development once activity picks up. Large schemes, however, would be exempt from these proposals, which would be welcome.
‘We were told that the Lyons Review would be meaty, and it has certainly proved to be so. The sensible review is extremely comprehensive and pinpoints exactly where problems in the planning system are and comes up with thoughtful solutions,’ said Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF.
‘While some proposals, for example those surrounding use it or lose it, may be difficult to implement, on the whole the review shows a clear understanding of the major problems of the planning system, and how these impact on development in the UK. It would be fantastic to see other political parties commit to such a thorough and all-encompassing review like this one,’ she added.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, a member of the Lyons review panel, pointed out that the UK is currently building half the number of homes needed each year. ‘This has left us with a housing crisis which is only set to get worse for the next generation. We need to act now to ensure our children have roofs over their heads in future,’ he said.
‘I welcome the ideas that would see us build 200,000 new homes by 2020 and the ambition to go beyond this to meet demand. We’re pleased that the ideas we’ve put forward to all the parties ahead of the general election have been listened to, such as access and control over how land is used,’ he explained.
‘We are calling on the next government to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long term plan within a year of taking office detailing how they will do this. The ideas detailed in the Lyons review would take us a step closer to this,’ he added.