Fully half the text of the Lyons Review report and
18 of its 39 recommendations relate to the first of the two major
challenges it identifies - releasing more land for housing,
primarily through reform of the planning system.
The primary thrust of the
recommendations is to reduce local resistance to new development by
ensuring local access to new developments and coupling investment
in new housing with prior or parallel investment in infrastructure
that is needed to make additional homes part of thriving
Local housing markets do not respect
local authority boundaries but operate across larger areas driven
by the geography of commuting, migration and transport flows.
Councils need to work together to develop local plans which support
coherent strategies for these wider areas.
The current duty to cooperate, argues
Lyons, is insufficient to make this happen, and should be
strengthened with a duty for councils to work together to produce
Strategic Housing Market Plans which, in appropriate circumstances,
provide land-locked towns or cities with a "Right to
There are also proposals to simplify
and speed up the plan-making process. Councils, it is argued,
should also have the power to ensure that new development includes
a mix of types and tenures that meets local housing need and to
require that local first time buyers get first refusal on a
proportion of new homes.
The report recognizes that local
authority planning departments currently lack resources and skills.
They would be encouraged to pool resources to work together on
strategic plans, but also freed to raise planning fees to meet the
full cost of improved services.
There is a widespread perception that
landowners and developers hoard land with planning permission,
speculating on an increase in land values which may be greater if
fewer homes are built. This view, as one might expect, is contested
by developers. Lyons does not take sides in this argument, but
argues for steps to ensure greater transparency about the land
market, with the Land Registry making land ownership information
available to the public, including where land is subject to option
This would provide clarity, he argues,
about the extent to which speculation is actually taking place and
provide the evidence to justify any action necessary to address it.
Councils should also get greater powers to ensure planning
permissions are implemented within a reasonable time. On his
proposals, the life of a planning permission would be reduced to
two years, and councils would get the power to charge council tax
on development land after five years as if homes had been
Under current government proposals, the
old section 106 arrangements for ensuring that local communities
benefit from a proportion of planning gain are being phased out in
favour of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Lyons is critical of the likely impact
of CIL and calls for a review, together with definitive guidance to
ensure a single and robust methodology for assessing scheme
viability, and hence how large a community contribution it is
appropriate to ask for.
Without asking developers to make the
maximum reasonable contribution, he argues, the costs of necessary
infrastructure will create too large a burden on the public purse.
However, a commitment to a sustained increase in public investment
in infrastructure will also be essential if the aspiration of
200,000 new homes annually is to be achieved by
Lyons Review was commissioned by the Labour Party to advise on
policy for the next government, should Labour form it, its analysis
and recommendations repay careful consideration by any government
looking to increase housing supply. It would be a pity if the ideas
on planning in this report were ignored simply because of who paid