Clegg defends affordable housing policy
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the waiving of affordable housing obligations in order to kick-start stalled developments.
Easing social housing requirements formed part of a package of measures unveiled earlier this month in a bid to boost construction and grow the economy, in the throes of a double-dip recession.
The Lib Dem leader also insisted the Government was not "pointing the finger" at councils for the hold-up in house-building. It comes after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles threatened to strip authorities of their planning powers if they are too slow making decisions. The Local Government Association (LGA) point out the problem is not the planning system, highlighting the backlog of sites with permission to build.
This included 2,982 "unimplemented units" in Exeter, 1,094 in Teignbridge, 1,754 in East Devon and 519 in Mid Devon.
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Under the government changes, obligations for including affordable housing in new developments could be waived where they are holding projects back. But Mr Clegg points out there will be extra Government investment to support the building of more affordable homes.
Tackled over the planning changes at his party conference in Brighton, Mr Clegg said: "There are numerous sites around the country, including the South West, where developers have received permission from councils to build homes, usually a mixture of private homes and affordable homes, but where literally nothing is happening, where the developer has basically not got a single spade in the ground.
"So it is useless to society to people in the South West, and most importantly it's denying young families in the South West the opportunity to buy a home they can call their home, or rent one.
"So what we saying is instead of just having this land go fallow, that no one is being employed or there is not a single concrete mixer on the site, we are saying that well, in those cases where the developers can prove that the conditions under which the planning consent was initially given, makes it impossible for them to commercially proceed with it, we will allow them to seek to renegotiate those terms. But only in those sites. "Why? So that you can actually get economic activity, jobs and most importantly of all homes built.
"I insisted that won't lead to a net drop-off in the number affordable social housing built in this country, part of the package was an announcement of £300 million of extra money to build 15,000 affordable home and to bring 5,000 empty homes into use." He added: "All we are trying to do is kick start construction on sites where planning permission had previously been granted."