Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) (AH 73(a))


  You may have seen the Daily Telegraph coverage recently, which stated that immigration "is the single and simple reason for the disappearance of green spaces". Although the TCPA and the newspaper quickly rebutted this view, I am taking this opportunity to write to you to underline that the biggest cause in the need for more housing is, in fact, that we are living longer.

  The TCPA is an independent non-party political charity. Our objectives are: ensuring everyone has a decent home, empowering communities and promoting sustainable development. We also aim to explode a number of myths that surround the supply of new housing in England.

  Economically, for example, it is sometimes suggested that turning off the supply of housing in the South will lead to more investment in the north of England. The evidence (following several years of significant constraint in the Southeast, and a worsening North/South divide) clearly shows that cutting housing supply has no such economic effect. The only impact is worsening inequalities for those locked out of the property market. For example the fire fighter reportedly forced to commute to Reading from Wales in order to find an affordable home (The Guardian).

  Revitalising the economies of regions furthest from the Southeast is clearly a vital objective. We therefore need to develop a suite of infrastructure, skills and investment policies, as well as interventions for jobs creation, in the midlands, the north and the far west of the country. With stronger regional economies and more jobs, homes will follow. If successful this policy will relieve pressure on housing markets elsewhere.

  Simply restricting housing supply to try and boost regional economic development priorities has failed, would be ineffective and is socially divisive. Successful regional development throughout the UK depends upon a strong and successful base in London and the southeast. Failing to provide sufficient homes for the people and employers who want them in the south of England is therefore harming economic development for the nation as a whole.

  Socially, many of the problems of constraining housing supply are obvious. There are now around 100,000 homeless households in the UK, including more than 40,000 in London. This should be unacceptable to civilised society. The existence of empty homes in the north is not a solution for the vast majority of such families. Research produced by the University of Cambridge for the TCPA has shown that between 200,000 and 220,000 homes per year are needed, whilst actual supply is only around 70% of this total. Contrary to many perceptions the biggest single reason for the need for more homes (around 40%) is that there are more of us, the settled population, and that we are living longer. We published this key finding in our journal, Town & Country Planning in September 2005 in our widely quoted report "Housing the Next Generation" which I attach for your information.

  Environmentally, the protection of the environment will always be a key priority. It is a major reason behind the creation and existence of a planning system in the UK. A concentrated and contained approach to new development is the best way to prevent sprawl and maximise the gains, environmental and otherwise, that can arise from new development. Such gains include £2.5 billion per year from developers' contributions to planning gain agreements for public services and capital expenditure mainly controlled by local authorities. New housing can also significantly reduce commuting and the release of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Net inward commuting to Milton Keynes for example means that it makes absolute environmental sense to locate more housing close to the jobs people want in that city. Housing currently accounts for 27% of the UK's carbon emissions, therefore it can make environmental sense to replace older stock with new more energy efficient homes to improve both levels of emissions and resource efficiency ratings. As the TCPA demonstrated in its popular "Biodiversity by Design—Guide for Sustainable Communities" (supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) residential areas provide very high levels of flora and fauna often more successfully than agricultural land uses they replace, though decisions on new development will always have to depend in part on the environmental impact. Development will not always be perfect, but new housing, if the standards are high enough can provide answers to the toughest environmental challenges we face.

  The TCPA is today publishing guidance for local planning authorities on "Sustainable Design and Construction". I also enclose this for your information.

  We made a number of these points in evidence to your inquiry but felt that it was important to underline some of them since oral evidence sessions have now concluded.



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