The new mayor has the wind behind him and needs to grasp a series of positive moves, to encourage a new wave of housebuilding in the capital.
That’s the view of think tank the Centre for Policy Studies, which in new report that says the time is right to start addressing the shortfall in new homes provision. A wider appreciation of housing need means nimbyism is on the decline, while institutional capital is heading into the residential sector in a way not seen in recent years. And, says the report titled A Convergence of Interests, local authorities are now feeling more able to consider ambitious new actions towards developing homes.
Report authors Keith Boyfield and Daniel Greenberg also propose the mayor takes a look at Pink Zones, pioneered in parts of the US, which align local interests under a simplified planning regime. The CPS first floated this idea in a 2014 paper, with the pink colour referring to a watering down of red tape and planning regulations.
Said Boyfield: “In the past a great number of housing developments were built in the UK by private entities – in some cases of a philanthropic nature, such as Bournville. Pink Zones could trigger institutional funding for investment in new housing – institutions such as life insurance companies, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and charitable foundations.”
“Ultimately Pink Zones would create more and better homes for people throughout the country and tackle the poverty of aspiration which typifies much residential construction in this country. Our Pink Planning proposals create a mechanism whereby a convergence of interests can be taken forward. By encouraging Special Purpose Vehicles to emerge, Pink Planning, with its streamlined planning framework and a single consenting regime, can bring together all the relevant parties to create new developments that are finely tuned to the needs of individual communities.”
The Pink Planning idea has received support from a number of industry stalwarts, including Steve Norris, who commented: “Making our planning system more predictable, less time consuming and more affordable should be a key priority for politicians at every level. Pink Planning offers a way forward. It is now for others to follow.” While Peter Freeman, chairman of Argent Group, added: “I think this study makes a valuable contribution to the debate about how to accelerate house building.”
And from the Civil Service, former senior advisor John Fingleton added: “Inefficiency in the planning system is a serious obstacle to economic growth and prosperity in Britain. This proposal would represent a practical step forward and is very worthy of support.”
Pink Planning was pioneered in Detroit, and has also been used in Phoenix, using place-based standards that encourage the retrofitting of existing buildings, with a lighter touch from planners that encourages commercial creativity. “As the name implies, delivery of the Pink Planning model will therefore require deregulatory legislation,” the report warns. “But there is nothing unprecedented in what is proposed: all the integral components of the model are already found in legislation or the common law.”
LPA Perspective: The Centre for Policy Studies has been pushing the pink planning idea since 2014, and is arguing that now it has greater traction. It may have relevance in certain parts of London, and sounds to have something in common with the philosophies behind enterprise zone status, which helped create Canary Wharf.
But Canary Wharf was a long time ago, when there was plenty of derelict docklands to tackle. London is now more densely developed, with fewer large plots of underused land. However, the pink planning concept could yet be brought to bear, in helping other parts of the capital deliver the homes that are needed.