Jenrick announces revised plan for housing algorithm

By William Eichler | 16 December 2020

The Government has announced a raft of new measures in an attempt to provide much-needed homes in urban areas and on brownfield sites.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick today said that the housing need formula would be updated to help councils build more family homes and make the most of vacant buildings and underused land to protect green spaces.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which was among the original housing formula’s critics, welcomed the change but still held reservations.

Head of policy Richard Blyth said: ‘Despite this update, there are fundamental flaws with relying on a spreadsheet to decide housing numbers – what we really need is a proper democratic national debate about the roles of different parts of the country in housing policy.’

South East England Councils (SEEC) chair Cllr Roy Perry said: ‘The original planning proposal, far from levelling up the country and helping the north would have lead to unacceptable levels of building especially over the south east.

‘Of all policies, town and country planning needs local input to take account of local knowledge and local sensitivities. It should not be dictated by ill thought through formulae from Whitehall.’

The Local Government Association added ‘algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making’.

Mr Jenrick also said the Government intended to revise the so-called 80/20 rule, which guides how much funding is available to local areas to help build homes.

This will establish a new principle to ensure funding is not just concentrated in London and the south-east.

Mr Jenrick said: ‘We are reforming our planning system to ensure it is simpler and more certain without compromising standards of design, quality and environmental protection.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and magnified patterns that already existed, creating a generational opportunity for the repurposing of offices and retail as housing and for urban renewal.

‘We want this to be an opportunity for a new trajectory for our major cities – one which helps to forge a new country beyond COVID – which is more beautiful, healthier, more prosperous, more neighbourly and where more people have the security and dignity of a home of their own.’

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