The Labour Government wanted a very large increase in the building of new homes, from current levels of around 180,000 a year in England (2006/7) to 240,000 a year - a total of 3 million new homes by 2020. The Final Regional Plan for the East Midlands set a target of nearly half a million new homes in the East Midlands between 2006-2026.
The Coalition Government revoked the Regional Plan largely due to the unpopularity of centrally imposed housing numbers. The Government intends Local Planning authorities to be responsible for establishing the right level of local housing provision in their area. Some guidance to local authorities is contained in a letter on Revocation of Regional Strategies. A "Localism Bill" is expected to be introduced in the current Parliamentary session which will set out the Government proposals for housing provision in more detail.
Housebuilding covers more countryside than any other kind of development. The huge increase in housebuilding proposed by the previous Government could sharply raise the rate at which countryside is built on and add to the environmental damage associated with housebuilding - more climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, increased road traffic and congestion, more strain on water resources and flooding.
But it's not just about numbers. We need to treat land as a scarce and valuable resource and build at the right density, which will vary from town to country.
We will also need to improve the design of housing, which includes building homes which meet high environmental standards and which fit in with their surroundings. We also need to ensure existing homes perform to high environmental standards.
And what of the economic downturn? With developers grinding to a halt or even going to the wall, who will build all these houses? And how will the infrastructure be paid for?
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