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PR 25 - Affordable housing and regional democracy must top draft Queen's speech

13 May 2008

The Government must put the provision of affordable housing and the introduction of measures to make Regional Development Agencies democratically accountable at the top of its legislative agenda when it announces its priorities in the Draft Queen's Speech later this week, according to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The RTPI is concerned that without proper incentives from government the provision of affordable housing will fall into decline at precisely the time demand for it will be on the increase. In response to the economic slowdown several developers, including the UK's largest house building firm, Persimmon Homes, have wound down or halted building projects. This slowdown in the development of new homes will severely impact on the provision of affordable homes through Section 106 agreements, which are the quid pro quo agreements between local authorities and developers outlining what the developer must provide for the community in order for their project to receive planning approval.

RTPI Policy Director Rynd Smith said: \"With the economic downturn likely to make section 106 agreements a less effective tool in delivering affordable housing the Government needs to think about how it can encourage the ongoing development of affordable homes. It may be desirable to invest public funds into the provision of affordable housing, not only to meet the likely increase in demand, but in order to provide an economic stimulus to the construction sector until financial market conditions once again provide a basis for private building firms to deliver affordable housing.\"

The RTPI is also urging the Government to investigate how it can make Regional Development Agencies (RDA) better accountable to their communities through the Sub National Review. Now that Regional Assemblies have been abandoned, the RTPI is concerned that simply transferring their planning function to the economically driven Regional Development Authorities, as they are currently constituted, could undermine the democratic legitimacy of the decision making process and, due to a lack of qualified staff within RDAs, lead to poor decision making on important housing and infrastructure issues.

RTPI Policy Director Rynd Smith said: \"Currently Regional Development Agencies have no democratic legitimacy and lack the staff to deliver good planning. Given their economic remit, lack of accountability and lack of planning skills, without reform there is a very real danger that RDAs will make terrible decisions on important planning issues, with far reaching and long term consequences. What are needed are more democratically accountable regional bodies with economic, social and environmental remits that are well resourced with qualified planning staff. So far the RDAs don't answer that specification, so reform is required.\"

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Dale Atkinson, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479 dale.atkinson@rtpi.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

1) The RTPI is currently drafting a response to the Sub National Review. To contribute visit here

2) The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people.  We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space.  Through our 20,000 members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at: www.rtpi.org.uk

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