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Think-tank attacks cuts in homes targets

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

House building
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The largest cuts in house-building targets have been made in the South West since the abolition of regional planning in 2010, according to research by the Policy Exchange think-tank.

The radical reductions could result in the lowest level of house-building since the 1920s, the think-tank warned.

Regional Spatial Strategies were introduced in 2004 and set planning frameworks for all areas of England outside London. They were abolished by the coalition Government in 2010 in a move designed to give local authorities more power over planning.

Councils have used the power to reduce targets, with the largest cuts in the South West where targets have fallen by more than 18% or 108,380 homes.

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The Policy Exchange called for Government to ensure that councils build the number of homes indicated in their targets, rather than seeking to force them to increase them.

"The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have rightly made it clear that we need to build more homes," the report's author, Alex Morton, said.

"Yet the Government is on track to preside over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s.

"Relying on councils to expand housing targets was a mistake.

"However, now the coalition should focus on fixing the multiple failures with the housing market – not fighting councils. This can help us begin to build the homes we need."

Cornwall Council is among those to have slashed its target for the number of new homes to be built over the next 20 years. It is targeting 48,000 – 20,000 less than the figure outlined in the former regional spacial strategy.

Councillor Mark Kaczmarek, the cabinet member responsible for housing, said the figure was "realistic" based on the county's future housing needs.

He stressed that pressure should not be exerted to increase house building as a "miracle cure" for the economy.

"We have reduced the figures by 20,000," he said. "If we had gone for a lower figure, as some people suggested, it would not have been realistic and would not have met the future housing needs of the people of Cornwall.

"We have made sure it is fair and have not set too low a figure which would have risked it being set outside of Cornwall."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the analysis in the report was "completely wrong".

He said: "Top-down regional targets didn't work and built nothing but resentment. It is meaningless to point to targets which were never going to be built. It was under regional strategies that house building fell to its lowest peacetime rates since the 1920s.

"As promised in the coalition agreement, this Government is abolishing the ineffective, unpopular and bureaucratic tier of regional planning.

"Instead, it is simplifying the planning system and has introduced the New Homes Bonus to work with local communities, not against them."

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