Sweeping reforms to the planning system could lead to social housing facing “extinction”, critics have warned.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the biggest overhaul of planning policy in England in decades would protect green spaces while making it easier to build on brownfield sites.
The government’s over-arching aim to curb the power of local politicians was clear as Jenrick said it takes seven years to agree housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground – and the proposed changes aim to speed up the process.
But campaigners were alarmed by the consequences of the slashing of red tape, seizing in particular on the government proposing to scrap Section 106 agreements, which can be used to require private developers to build a certain amount of social homes on a site.
While an obscurity to most outside the building world, Section 106 is said to be responsible for half of all affordable homes built in England. It will be replaced by a new “infrastructure levy”. Without it, Labour branded the shake up a “developers’ charter”.
Despite the government’s insistence that the moves would create tree-lined streets and promote “beautiful” buildings, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) said there was “every chance they could also lead to the creation of the next generation of slum housing”.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Any alternative to Section 106 must ensure we can deliver more high quality affordable homes to meet the huge demand across the country.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “Decades of political decisions have left social housing gravely endangered.
“If the government now removes the requirement for developers to build their fair share it could face extinction.
“Over a million households on waiting lists for social homes risk having their hopes dashed.”