The Letwin Review - Recommends new planning rules

Sir Oliver Letwin’s Review of ​‘build out rates’ was delivered on time as part of the Budget. The review was initiated by the Government with the aim to understanding why there is a gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned to build on in areas of high housing demand, and how this gap could be closed.

As set out in a draft report in June, Sir Oliver did identify a problem with the speed of build-out on large sites – which he said take an average of 15.5 years to build out, and longer in London. However, “the review found no evidence that speculative land banking is part of the business model for major house builders,” says the Budget document.

His key recommendations are:

  • To introduce new planning rules for all future large sites (1,500 homes) in areas of high housing demand, requiring these sites to offer a range of different types of homes (a new policy); and
  • To create a ‘National Expert Committee’ to advise Councils on the interpretation of the diversity requirements of the above mentioned policy and settle any disputes between local authorities and developers.

Overall, it feels like considerable thought has been put into producing a series of recommendations that make sense in theory but when applied to the real world and live developments, they might fail to gain traction or even reverse due to its complexity.

The Government will formally respond to Sir Oliver’s recommendations in February 2019, whilst Sir Oliver himself recommends that the powers be in force by 2021. But this does clearly limit the impact the review can have at speeding up existing stalled sites.

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