As part of the government's wide-ranging programme of planning reform councils will receive new powers to help them boost delivery of housing to meet housing need in their areas.
Under regulations introduced to parliament on 4 June 2018 Councils will have the option of applying to the government to establish 'New Town Development Corporations'. These new locally controlled bodies will be responsible for partnering with developers to progress planning and project development, arranging private investment and overseeing the completion of a new towns or garden villages with each expected to deliver "tens of thousands of new homes".
Housing Minister Dominic Raab MP who introduced the new regulations, has said:
"We need to build the homes our communities need and I’m committed to giving councils the tools they need to deliver."
"That’s why we’re giving councils the option of applying to establish development corporations. These will be locally accountable and must listen to the views of the community to ensure that the right homes are built in the right places."
Held accountable by councils, the development corporations will be expected to involve communities in their projects, which will include allowing residents to have their say on how high-quality homes are delivered. The regulations have been introduced alongside a summary document which outlines the consultation process and background behind the regulations. The regulations themselves will be subject to further debate by MPs and will come into force later this year once approved by Parliament.
The legislative changes will occur in the New Towns Act 1981 which will see some of the powers previously granted to the Secretary of State shift to local councils. In addition, the latest draft legislation has removed the provision in previous drafts that the development corporations would be subject to a borrowing cap of £100 million. This cap has now been removed on the proviso that borrowing levels will need to be agreed between the HM Treasury and the local authority (or the collection of authorities that are overseeing the development corporations).
For the new regulations to work effectively the new processes must be both robust and transparent with the primary focus being on quality, affordability, environmental compatibility and genuine public participation. Further, the government is yet to discuss the topic of how communities will obtain the resources they need to look after housing and its associated infrastructure in the long-term. In any event, many hail this as a 'new town renaissance' and an important development for local communities who will now be able to have as much say as possible about developments in their areas. Hopes are that these more flexible structures and powers will lead to a surge in housebuilding that will satisfy both national and local need.