In a letter sent to local authorities on Friday, the local government minister Eric Pickles told councils to ignore the housing targets set out in the South East Plan. The number of homes proposed in the Core Strategy for Brighton & Hove are based on these targets.
Proposals for the Decentralisation & Localism Bill, promising to rapidly abolish the Plan and return decision making powers over housing numbers to local authorities was included in the Queen’s Speech last month. Although the Bill is not expected to pass into law until 2011, Eric Pickles has instructed local councils not to wait for the legislation but rather to start unpicking the housing delivery element of their Core Strategies straight away.
He went further saying that the Planning Inspectorate, which is duty-bound to continue assessing the robustness of Core Strategies [and their housing targets] until new laws are passed, should take his letter as a “material planning consideration” in any future decisions.
The Conservative alternative to top-down targets is to let local councils decide how many homes to build and incentivize building by allowing them to keep council tax receips matched by central government funds for six years for every new home built. For affordable homes the match funding will be 125% of the council tax [see earlier story].
But Keith Mitchell, leader of Conservative Oxfordshire County Council said that the cash would not be enough to persuade some councils in the South East to build more homes saying: "I welcome the principle of the proposals, but in the South-East the incentives are going to have to be pretty high. We won’t know until we try, but I am not sure the current proposed levels are high enough."
He said that the government may need to introduce different levels of payment in different areas of the country.
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