Planning shake-up ‘will help families’

Councils will be required to ensure the housing needs of children are met, the government has announced, as new research shows 1.6 million are living in dire conditions.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper today revealed changes to the planning system requiring local authorities to ensure there were enough family homes, and that children were placed in family-friendly environments with access to gardens, play areas and parks.

She called on councils to identify more appropriate sites for housing quickly, planning up to 15 years in advance in order to reduce “unnecessary delays”.

“If we don’t deliver more homes, we will see growing pressures on first time buyers, overcrowding and social housing waiting lists. But we also need higher quality homes and neighbourhoods too,” Ms Cooper said.

Noting that in London four fifths of new homes were one and two bedroom flats, she added: “The new planning rules will support more homes for families.

“Bad housing for children can haunt them for the rest of their lives, which is why it is so important to ensure there are enough family homes, with gardens, play areas and parks.”

The planning changes come as a new report for homelessness charity Shelter finds one in seven British children – 1.6 million – are homeless or living in bad housing.

The Against the Odds report reveals that children trapped in temporary accommodation are twice as likely to leave school with no GCSEs, and notes that almost 310,000 are suffering long-term illnesses or disabilities.

Shelter wants the Treasury to fund 20,000 extra social homes a year to lift these children – who are also more likely to be bullied and excluded from school – out of poverty.

Chief executive Adam Sampson said: “It’s a scandal that 40 years after the plight of Cathy Come Home‘s on-screen family shocked the nation, the lives of 1.6 million children are today being devastated by the grim reality of homelessness and bad housing.”
And commenting on the Shelter report, he condemned the “huge shortage of affordable housing” as “a damning indictment” of the government’s policy.

Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Dan Rogerson said the “huge shortage of affordable housing” was “a damning indictment” of the government’s policy and called on it to invest in more social housing.

Commenting on the planning reforms he accused the government of being “devoid of ideas on how to solve our housing crisis”. Councils should be given more flexibility to solve their community’s needs, including allowing them to retain some family-sized homes instead of turning them into flats, he said.

However, the National Housing Federation welcomed the reforms as “an important step” which “heralds an opportunity for local authorities and developers”.

Chief executive David Orr called on the government to invest £11.6 billion in next year’s comprehensive spending review to deliver 210,000 new homes over three years. And he pledged that housing associations would match this figure.

“We have been telling the government for years to put affordable housing at the heart of its planning policy, and we are glad it is now doing so,” he added.