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Sir Michael Lyons says 'planners centre stage in tackling housing crisis'

01 August 2016

Speaking at the RTPI Yorkshire Annual Lecture last Thursday (28 July), Sir Michael Lyons, ex BBC Trust Chairman and chair of an independent Inquiry into the future role of local government in 2007, called on councils to play a stronger, more ambitious role in tackling the housing crisis.

In a lecture entitled “2040: Where shall we all live?”, Sir Michael presented the stark facts of the housing crisis and a whole range of ideas how it could be addressed, among them stronger, more effective strategic planning by local and devolved authorities. Public sector-led place-shaping and strategic planning should be much higher on the agenda. Especially at a time when the house building industry has contracted in size and output, public planners and local councils need to be more ambitious and pragmatic.

He outlined ways they can create more homes, such as driving developments through active land assembly, encouraging land release for housing and business, taking the lead in development on council-owned land and forging partnerships, and unlocking private investments by putting in vital infrastructure first.

A crucial part, he argued, was “to ensure that the full orchestra is playing” and that every part of society, including the entire range of housing providers is playing its part. There needs to be recognition that house building is a fundamental part of our economic revival. 

He also called for a stronger emphasis on quality - more long term investment in places as well as homes. Reshaping existing estates, making better use of existing stock, helping residents reduce heating bills, and new garden settlements should all be part of the mix.

He called on the Government “to press on with bold devolution and to adopt a comprehensive national housing strategy that invests in homes for all rather than just home ownership for the few. Investment in housing and the infrastructure to support it is now a priority if we are to strengthen our economy and tackle growing inequality.”

Sir Michael Lyons RTPI Yorkshire Annual Lecture

The RTPI as a whole and in Yorkshire will continue to champion for planning teams to be properly resourced and valued, so that planners can operate strategically.

Phil Crabtree, RTPI Yorkshire Chair, said:

“Sir Michael’s speech has rightfully put planning and local authorities in the heart of addressing one of the country’s most urgent issues. In these uncertain times the public sector needs to work closely with the private sector to provide the certainty the market needs to keep investing and building the houses and places communities need to thrive.

“The RTPI as a whole and in Yorkshire will continue to champion for planning teams to be properly resourced and valued, so that planners can operate strategically and use local authorities’ combined local planning, economic development and regeneration powers to guide private sector investment and to lead the process of change."

View: Photos from the lecture