John’s letter to Minister encouraging building up, not out to hit housing targets

The Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP
Minister of State for Housing
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

I’m writing to follow up on our conversation on Wednesday, about a potential solution to the proposed new formula-driven housing needs housebuilding targets for each Local Authority area. I am also sending this letter as a formal submission to the Housing Needs consultation, as you suggested when we spoke.

The potential solution is to link delivery of the formula-driven housing needs targets to the Government’s parallel set of proposals to allow owners to add an extra 2 stories to existing buildings (or convert, or demolish and replace with the same result) in zoned areas, subject to a local authority Development Code. As you know I’m a strong advocate of these ‘Build Up Not Out’ proposals, which could create the biggest single increase in residential homebuilding permissions in our country’s entire history, but only if local authorities will designate large enough zones in the first place.

So we should give Local Authorities credit for all these newly-created residential permissions against their housing need targets. For example if a 2-story community with 1,000 homes steadily becomes a four-story one with 2,000 households the Council should be able to allow for a proportion of those newly-created homes each year against its annual target. If you build this automatically into your formula it will:

  • create a powerful incentive for local Councils to welcome and accept the Government’s new ‘add 2 stories’ proposals, and to designate large areas of their existing built environment to be upgraded and enhanced as a result. This maximises and leverages the expected benefits of the new policy (such as better-looking buildings with a coherent vernacular style and local character; greener and more sustainable communities where people can live closer to work with less need to commute etc)   
  • neutralise a significant proportion of the (potentially very large indeed) political opposition to the proposed new formula-driven targets from local and national elected representatives, by giving them an easy and ready-made way to achieve them. It may not solve the entire problem, but it will reduce it very significantly and leave you with a much smaller remaining gap to close.

I hope this helps. I’d be happy to provide more details or discuss this with you if needed.

Yours sincerely,

John Penrose MP