Dominic Raab has unveiled proposals to give councils more influence over the development of New Towns and “garden villages” as part of the government’s efforts to boost housing delivery.
Regulations introduced to parliament yesterday by the housing minister create a new model for the creation of large-scale housing settlements that reduces the level of accountability to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The move will allow councils to seek secretary-of-state level permission for the creation of a New Town Development Corporation, which would be accountable to them rather than the department – as is the case under the New Towns Act 1981.
MHCLG said the new development corporations set up after the regulations come into force would operate in a similar way to the New Town Development Corporations that delivered the postwar New Towns such as Milton Keynes. Each is expected to deliver “tens of thousands of new homes”, it added.
The corporations will be responsible for masterplanning and project development, bringing on board private investment, partnering with developers and overseeing the completion of a New Town or garden village, but they will be accountable to councils and expected to give communities a say in their projects.
Raab said the regulations would give councils the necessary tools to help communities meet their housing requirements as the government targets raising annual new-home delivery figures past the 300,000 mark from current levels in the low 200,000s.
“That’s why we’re giving councils the option of applying to establish development corporations,” he said.
“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.”
MHCLG said that under the proposed regulations, the secretary of state would retain sign-off powers on compulsory purchase orders – often necessary to deliver large-scale development. However it said that the option of setting up a New Town Development Corporation that was directly accountable to the secretary of state would remain on the statute books.
The department yesterday published a consultation outcome summary document that covers aspects of its proposals in relation to New Towns Act 1981 regulations that relate to council oversight.
It found that groups representing individuals concerned about development were generally opposed to giving councils more control over the delivery of New Towns.
The document also conceded that there was a “mixed” response to the proposals from property developers, and concern over whether councils had the resources necessary to oversee the development of new towns – or the required competence levels.