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Development Corporations – a New Planning Tool?

Karen Jones

Partner Karen Jones, in our Planning and Environmental Law team, discusses the new powers to seek government approval for a New Town Development Corporation. 

New powers have been announced by Housing minister Dominic Raab for councils to have the ability to seek government approval for the establishment of a New Town Development Corporation, responsible for delivering new towns and garden communities in their area.

The proposals will allow Councils to undertake the masterplanning and project development for new town projects, attract private investment, partner with developers and oversee the completion of new settlements.

In this way the government expects Council’s to deliver “tens of thousands of new homes”.

Communities will be involved so they can have a say on how housing is delivered said Rab, ensuring that developments are of a high quality. The Development Corporation will be held to account by the Councils unlike their previous guise where development corporations were accountable to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Corporations will be made up of council representatives, community stakeholders, experts in delivering major projects and other partner organisations.

Raab said: “We need to build the homes our communities need and I’m committed to giving councils the tools they need to deliver.

“That’s why we’re giving councils the option of applying to establish development corporations. 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.”

Amendments to the New Towns Act 1981 are proposed to transfer the powers to oversee and lead the creation of new communities from the Secretary of State to local councils. This has already been welcomed in Essex from the council-owned company set up to oversee the creation of three proposed new communities in north Essex, where a development corporation could be created to deliver these new garden communities.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “The LGA has long called for oversight of local development corporations to be carried out by councils, so that local communities can have as much say as possible about developments in their areas. It is positive that the government has listened to the views of local communities on local development corporations."

“We will continue to engage with the government to ensure that we can make the most of these new opportunities to deliver homes through local development corporations, and will continue to support the sector in efforts to deliver new homes. However, there is no quicker way to deliver these homes than by triggering the renaissance in council housebuilding we need by lifting the housing borrowing cap and enabling councils to borrow to build once more.”

The Town and Country Planning Association has recognised that new towns are an important part of the portfolio of solutions needed to address the nation’s housing and growth needs, but has commented that the success of the regulations rests on the supporting guidance. The Association considers it is vital that guidance sets out a robust and transparent process which focuses on quality, affordability, genuine public participation, high environmental standards and on ensuring communities have the resources they need to look after assets in the long-term.”

For more information or legal advice, please contact Karen Jones or a member of our team.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.