PM to make life harder for developers who ‘sit on land’ as part of housing plans

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Theresa May will announce plans to make it harder for developers who “sit on land and watch its value rise” to get planning permission from councils as part of proposals to tackle the “national housing crisis”.

The Prime Minister will stress she “cannot bring about the kind of society I want to see, unless we tackle one of the biggest barriers to social mobility we face today” – the lack of affordable housing.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph ahead of Monday’s speech, Mrs May took aim at housebuilders constructing “row after row of identikit red-tiled boxes” in towns and cities with the plans putting a focus on buildings which suit their surroundings.

In a rare personal insight, Mrs May will say the security of the first home she shared with husband Philip made it easier for her to play an active role in society. It showed that providing more housing will allow more people to have a stake in their community and its future, she will argue.

The PM will reveal a rewriting of planning rules to get more homes built because a lack of supply has meant that  “in much of the country, housing is so unaffordable that millions of people who would reasonably expect to buy their own home are unable to do so”.

Theresa May attends church
Theresa May will touch on her experience in her first home with husband Philip to highlight the value of home ownership (Steve Parsons/PA)

And she will take on the “perverse incentive” where “the bonuses paid to the heads of some of our biggest developers are based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price”, discouraging them from constructing houses after getting planning permission for a site.

The PM could allow councils to take a developer’s previous building rate into account when deciding to grant future planning permissions.

“I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise,” she will say.

Speaking at a national planning conference in London, Mrs May will go on: “The result (of the crisis) is a vicious circle from which most people can only escape with help from the Bank of Mum and Dad. If you’re not lucky enough to have such support, the door to home ownership is all too often locked and barred.”

“And because we had that security, because we had a place to go back to, it was that much easier to play an active role in our community. To share in the common purpose of a free society.”

“That is what this country should be about – not just having a roof over your head but having a stake in your community and its future.”

The new rules will see around 80 of last year’s Housing White Paper proposals implemented to “make the system fairer and more effective by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and ending barriers to building”, Downing Street said.

Mrs May will also announce a nationwide standard that sets out how many homes councils need to plan for in their area, with rules made clearer to show they can prioritise affordable homes prioritised for “key workers” including including nurses, teachers and firefighters.

She will also commit to maintaining existing protections so that authorities can only amend green belt boundaries if they can prove they have fully explored every other reasonable option for building the homes their community needs.

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing, John Healey MP, said: “The Prime Minister should be embarrassed to be fronting up these feeble measures first announced a year ago. After eight years of failure on housing it’s clear her Government has got no plan to fix the housing crisis.

“Since 2010, home-ownership has fallen to a 30 year low, rough sleeping has more than doubled, and deep cuts to housing investment have led to the lowest number of new social rented homes built since records began.

“This housing crisis is made in Downing Street. It’s time the Tories changed course, and backed Labour’s long-term plan to build the genuinely affordable homes the country needs.”

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