Cash 'bribe' for councils that build more homes
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 10 January 2013
Councils will be offered cash incentives to allow more homes to be built in their areas as the Government steps up its drive to tackle the housing crisis.
The move will be seen by the Government’s critics as an attempt to “bribe” local authorities into allowing more building in the countryside. It will be announced today by Nick Boles, the Planning Minister, who has called for the amount of built-on land to be increased by a third to allow more housebuilding.
Parish and town councils that draw up development plans and win the backing of local people in a referendum will receive 25 per cent of the community levy from the schemes, instead of the current 15 per cent. The money could be used for projects such as re-roofing a village hall, improving a swimming pool or taking over a community pub.
Coalition ministers say they are not hectoring people or forcing housebuilding on them, but trying to persuade them that development is in everyone’s interest. Although 76 per cent of the new homes completed in 2010 were built on brownfield sites with low environmental value, they argue that some undeveloped land will need to be used for housebuilding.
Mr Boles said: “We have a simple choice. We can decide to ignore the misery of young families forced to grow up in tiny flats with no outside space. We can pass by on the other side while working men and women in their twenties and thirties have to live with their parents or share bedrooms with friends. We can shrug our shoulders as home ownership reverts to what it was in the 19th century: a privilege, the exclusive preserve of people with large incomes or wealthy parents. Or we can accept that we are going to have to build on previously undeveloped land and resolve that we will make these decisions locally and build beautiful places like we used to.”
The Planning Minister said he wanted to persuade communities to accept more housebuilding by giving them a tangible share of the benefits. “By undertaking a neighbourhood plan that makes space for new development, communities can secure revenues to make the community more attractive for everyone,” he said.
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