A "national spatial dimension to the NPPF to identify opportunities for substantial housing growth created by national infrastructure investment" is a welcome, if tentative, step towards a national plan and Housing Growth Areas point councils towards the kind of enabling role that is more commonly adopted on the continent (see here notes of Nick Lee's (NJL Consulting) visit to Hammerby) .
Hmm. The planning system might restrict the use of land, but local plans should plan to meet objectively assessed housing need so land for development should not be scarce. Similarly, the local plan system provides all the power a community could possibly want to ensure that homes are built in the places it wants.
Interestingly, a recent YouGov poll has suggested that the public would actually support regional planning. Only 14% of 1,715 people surveyed thought that local councils should take decisions on the siting of new towns and major new housing projects. Will this be enough for the election strategists to reconsider their commitments to localism? That is perhaps a little optimistic, but it will hopefully provide food for thought. The Lyons Review states that "the Government must provide long term political leadership by making housing a national priority", which sounds good, but including 'housing is a national priority' on an election pledge card is not leadership. Leadership would be to state that it is for the Government to approve the number of new homes within a particular authority, and for the authority and the communities within in to determine where they are built. That would not only be popular with planners, but it might just be popular with the public too.