Budget and Oliver Letwin’s independent review of build out: final report


In his report, former Conservative Cabinet member, Sir Oliver Letwin recommends local planning authorities should have the power to designate specific areas – in places with high housing demand – within their local plans as land which can be developed only as single large sites. Councils should also have the power to compulsorily purchase (CPO) this land at prices that reflect the value of those sites once they have planning permission. Letwin, promoting mixture in the type and size of housing, proposes the adoption of a new set of planning rules for future large sites – over 1,500 units – requiring developers to provide diversity of homes. 

The Financial Times in its November 5th article  reports criticism over the high price of farmland. 

Many expected a complete shake up of the 1961 Land Compensation Act. Hugh Ellis criticises the "craziness" of the current system and "hope value". Shelter have criticised the lack of incentives for landowners so sell up at lower value are not strong enough. 

Local Development Companies and Local Authority Master Planners

Local authorities should control development of these sites through either two structures:

  • Use of a Local Development Company (LDC) for the establishment of the masterplan and the design code and then bring in private capital to pay for the land and to invest in the infrastructure before “parcellingup” the site and selling it to individual builders/providers, or
  • Establishment of a Local Authority Master Planner (LAMP) to develop the masterplanand the design code and then enable a privately financed Infrastructure Development Company (IDC) to purchase the land from the council, develop the infrastructure of the site and promote the same variety housing as in the LDC model. 

Letwin also considered the allocation of a small amount of viability funding to large sites to prevent any interruption of development on existing large sites that could otherwise become non-viable for the existing builders are a result of accepting the new diversity provisions. 

The British Property Federation (BPF) welcomes Sir Oliver Letwin’s recommendations, suggesting that the benefits will be three-fold:

“helping to address market absorption rates and deliver homes quicker and help to create more sustainable places, home to different demographics, socio-economic backgrounds, fostering a greater sense of community.”

John Acres, President of The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) also supported Letwin’s proposal for greater diversity but he added this needs to be extended across a much wider section of the housing market and not only to large sites. 

Lichfields posed questions for the role of local plans and how the two processes will interact. Concerns were voiced that further changes to the planning system could delay the completion of sites brought forward under the current system. It was also added that the proposed model is unclear, without insights on who would be responsible for the promotion of the sites, how it would relate to the process of public plan-making, consultation, assessment of alternatives and avoidance of conflicts of interest. 

Article prepared by Michaela Kekeri 


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