Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

July 7, 2010

A right to bypass the planning system

Many communities are faced with a lack of affordable housing.  Even when the community owns the land, innumerable barriers seem to frustrate even very small scale developments.  At a Community Land Trust conference in London last week, the Minister spoke of the Govt’s plans to give communities new powers to circumvent local council planning processes. This forthcoming Localism and Decentralisation Bill is going to make interesting reading.


Plans to make it easier for communities to deliver affordable housing developments without requiring planning permission will be contained in the forthcoming Decentralisation and Localism Bill, housing minister Grant Shapps has confirmed.

Speaking at the Community Land Trusts conference in London, Shapps said that the bill, which is due to be introduced in the autumn, would contain measures to encourage the establishment of “local housing trusts”

Shapps said that the initiative, which was first proposed in the Conservative Party’s planning green paper earlier this year, would allow communities and groups of social housing tenants to form trusts that would decide on the amount and type of affordable housing in an area. They would then be able to take steps to deliver new developments, without having to submit a planning application.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said that local housing trusts would have to prove that any new schemes had support from an “overwhelming majority – around 90 per cent – of the local community”. They would also have to meet some “basic planning criteria”, she said, but would not have to lodge formal planning applications.

Shapps told delegates: “I want communities to have the freedom to decide on the type and quantity of housing without external restrictions imposed by a centralised planning system.

“Local housing trusts may also want to build some housing to sell, sheltered housing for the elderly, or even set aside plots for people to build their own homes.

“They will be able to make a judgement about how best to invest in their community and meet its needs, for instance they might offer long-term low rent for local shops, a community hall, or a sports facility.”

He said that the model for local housing trusts would be based on that of community land trusts (CLTs) – local bodies that own or manage land and assets in perpetuity for the benefit of the community.

“Once a new development has been built, local housing trusts will be expected to invest any financial profits back into the community. And the land will remain in the trust for local benefit forever – regardless of what happens to the homes built on top,” he said