Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Written evidence from Pentland Homes Ltd (ARSS 13)

These representations are submitted on behalf of Pentland Homes Ltd in response to the Secretary of State's revocation of Regional Strategies and the forthcoming Select Committee Inquiry in to those proposals.

Pentland Homes are a privately owned house building company based in South East England. Their portfolio includes significant strategic land which the company are committed to promoting through emerging Local Development Framework's. Pentland Homes are concerned that the Secretary of State's arbitrary decision to revoke Regional Spatial Strategies, in the absence of an alternative mechanism, has created a planning vacuum which Local Planning Authorities are likely to exploit and frustrate much needed housing provision. This concern is already apparent in many Authorities, including the Growth Area of Ashford which has previously benefited from significant Central Government Forward Funding of major infrastructure improvements. The Leader of Ashford Borough Council, Councillor Paul Bartlett (Conservative) has recently indicated an intention to reduce housing provision and review the Core Strategy adopted in July 2008.

Similarly, the Leader of Canterbury City Council, Councillor John Gilby (Conservative), has signalled a political intention to reduce housing provision in the emerging Core Strategy.

These two Local Authorities are indicative of the impact of the Secretary of State's decision which will inevitably result in significant abortive costs to developers and significant delay in the delivery of housing.

The Secretary of State has indicated that Local Authorities will be incentivised to encourage housing delivery. However, details of financial incentives have not been published and in the light of the forthcoming spending review, are unlikely to be sufficiently attractive to outweigh local opposition to additional housing development. As a result, developers are reluctant to commit further, potentially abortive expenditure promoting strategic development and investing in infrastructure provision in a climate of planning uncertainty, political reluctance and economic constraints.

The housing building industry is faced with continuing reluctance from mortgage providers to finance house purchase, particularly by first time buyers despite an acknowledged short fall in housing provision, including "social housing".

In summary, the house building industry creates significant employment opportunities and many companies are already under severe financial pressure as a result of the economic downturn. The Secretary of State's abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies, in the absence of either an alternative mechanism for determining housing provision or details of mechanisms for incentivisation of Local Planning Authorities, will inevitably cause uncertainty, non delivery of housing provision and abortive expenditure.

I trust the above is self explanatory and should be grateful if you keep me advised of progress regarding the Select Committee Inquiry. Should you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.

September 2010

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