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Planning for Mixed Communities

Lord Rooker: My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Government policy is to create sustainable communities that contain a well integrated mix of decent housing of different types and tenures to support a wide range of households of different sizes, ages and incomes. Planning has an important role to play through the provision of an appropriate mix of housing which addresses the needs of households, including in terms of how much they can afford to pay for housing.

In July 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued for consultation Influencing the Size, Type and Affordability of Housing which proposed changes to planning policy guidance Note 3: Housing (PPG3) in relation to its approach to planning for affordable housing and mix of housing.

Part of this consultation document related to rural areas. In a separate statement to the House today, I have announced the publication of the final update to PPG3 entitled Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas which deals with the provision of affordable housing in rural areas.

Following extensive consultation discussions about Influencing the Size, Type and Affordability of Housing, it became clear that there was no consensus view among practitioners about how best to plan to achieve an appropriate mix of housing in an area. Some practitioners have advocated an approach by which local planning authorities make provision in their local development documents for a specified mix based on the size and type of housing. Others feel that this approach would be too prescriptive, particularly when applied to specific sites, where they feel account needs to be taken of the particular circumstances of each site and the housing market at the time a planning application is made.

In the light of the consultation and post-consultation discussions, we have developed further the approach to planning for a mix of housing. The revised approach is reflected in the consultation document Planning for Mixed Communities. This is
 
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being published today by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and copies are available in the Libraries of the House. The consultation document incorporates draft policy for planning for affordable housing and for a mix of housing.

The proposed approach on mix, in relation to market housing, focuses on household types and recognises that planning for households requires local planning authorities to take account of market considerations and to provide for a degree of choice. It is proposed that local planning authorities should plan for the range of different households to be provided for over the plan period and not for a range of housing sizes and types based on floor space or room numbers.

The proposed approach on mix in relation to affordable housing is that the approach to planning for an appropriate mix of affordable housing should continue to be based on the size and type of housing. This appears to be generally supported by local planning authorities and housing providers.

The wider approach to planning for affordable housing in this consultation update has been redrafted in the light of the previous consultation exercise. The changes are primarily to improve clarity in the operation and scope of the policy, particularly where there is explicit flexibility, such as in the approach to site-size thresholds above which affordable housing is to be sought. The policy objectives remain the same, namely to increase the amount of affordable housing where it is needed, in the context of delivering agreed housing numbers. The proposals include: a requirement that all local planning authorities should have an affordable housing policy; a stronger regional role, including co-ordinating the preparation of local housing assessments; the lowering of site size thresholds above which affordable housing is to be sought; and the requirement that local planning authorities balance the need for affordable housing against the likely development potential of sites.

A key objective of the policy is to create mixed and inclusive communities that offer a wide range of housing and promote social inclusion. To do this local planning authority policy must be based on a robust evidence base. A key component of the evidence base is the preparation of a local housing assessment. The consultation update emphasises to local planning authorities the importance of keeping the assessment up-to-date and developing the assessment in collaboration with key stakeholders, including housebuilders, who understand, and have to take account of housing markets.

The final policy will be accompanied by practice guidance on carrying out local housing assessments and on planning for mixed communities. A key objective of the practice guidance will be to set out clearly the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the planning for housing process. The guidance is currently in preparation. The intention is to involve stakeholder representative bodies in developing and finalising this guidance.
 
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The proposed policy changes would replace paragraphs 9 to 17 of PPG3, Annex C would be updated with new definitions, and Annex D would be updated with the details of new practice guidance and relevant ODPM circulars. DETR Circular 6/98 (Planning and Affordable Housing) would be cancelled.

This consultation update addresses the demand-side aspects of planning for housing. Later this year, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will consult on proposed changes to the way in which the planning system allocates and releases land for housing in response to market signals. The supply-side update to PPG3 will take forward the Government's response (with respect to PPG3) to the recommendations in the Barker review of housing supply.
 
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General Commissioners: Amalgamation of Divisions

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): On 20 January 2005 I made an order under Section 2(6) of the Taxes Management Act 1970 amalgamating the Saffron Walden and West Essex divisions in Essex with effect from 24 January 2005.

The amalgamation was made at the request of the general commissioners in the divisions with the aim of improving the organisational efficiency of the divisions. I have placed a copy of the order amalgamating the divisions in the Libraries of both Houses.


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