Housing growth and planning was the core theme for the District Councils’ Networks’ Spring Assembly hosted last week.
In response to the Housing and Planning Bill securing Royal Assent, Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), said: “The DCN welcomes the fact we now have a Housing and Planning Act to work with and will strive to ensure the legislation empowers district councils – which approve the overwhelming majority of planning applications nationally – to deliver the housing and economic growth the country expects.
“District councils are already accommodating on average 577 new homes for residents each year and delivering 6.42 hectares of new employment land for businesses, and our network will engage at a senior level to ensure our members, as planning and housing authorities, can boost help to buy shared ownership homes and starter homes.
“Individual districts will work with the spirit of the Act and align, at ground level, the Government’s ambitions for housing and economic growth with the broader pattern of devolution, and in particular, moves towards cross-boundary strategic planning across functional economic and strategic housing market areas that firmly link local growth with strategic infrastructure.
“When she spoke at the DCN’s Spring Assembly last week Business minister Anna Soubry was left in no doubt how keen districts are to advance national growth objectives at local level.
“However, success in implementing the Act will stand or fall on the ability of councils to exercise local discretion and wise interpretation to develop a mix of housing tenure that supports greater home ownership, expands stock in areas of greatest need and reduces welfare spending.
“In the areas we serve, district councils will be all that stands between many residents becoming homeless. It is to be hoped that mooted plans to make homelessness a statutory duty for local government will be adequately funded, so districts can continue to support the most vulnerable residents and develop solutions with Government that ensure levels of homelessness do not increase as an inadvertent consequence of provisions enshrined in the Housing and Planning Act.”