Local government 'caught between devil and deep blue sea' over new housing strategy

Local government comms chiefs say they will be 'desperately dodging flak from all sides' as Sajid Javid unveiled controversial plans to address England's housing shortage, including building on Green Belt land.

Local authorities will be allowed to give permission for houses to be built on Green Belt land (┬ęThinkstockPhotos)
Local authorities will be allowed to give permission for houses to be built on Green Belt land (┬ęThinkstockPhotos)
A major change in strategy, announced yesterday, will see planning rules relaxed and greater powers granted to local councils across England in a bid to get more homes built.

Local authorities will be allowed to give permission for houses to be built on Green Belt land – a move that would prompt fury among people living in affected areas.

The Government is also changing the National Planning Policy Framework to allow starter homes to be built on Brown Field sites within the Green Belt.

Writing in the foreword to the Government’s White Paper – ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’ - Prime Minister Teresa May made her intentions clear: "We need more land for homes where people want to live."

We are stuck between the devil of having to carefully manage messages about housing plans and consultation at a local level, and the deep blue sea of government-imposed targets we can't alter.

A senior comms professional for a large local authority 
The new housing strategy for England includes forcing councils to plan for their local housing needs and giving them powers to pressure developers to start building on land they own. 

While it refers to the value placed on the Green Belt, it states: "Parts of it are not the green fields we often picture, and public access can be limited, depending on ownership and rights of way."

Commenting on the impact of the new strategy, a senior comms professional for a large local authority said: "We are stuck between the devil of having to carefully manage messages about housing plans and consultation at a local level, and the deep blue sea of government-imposed targets we can't alter, even if local people revolt. There's a real worry councils will be caught in a 'no man's land' between government rhetoric and local reality, and the comms teams will be left desperately dodging flak from all sides."

Meanwhile, Polly Cziok, head of comms for Hackney Council, explained that while the borough had little Green Field land to speak of, the new strategy presented different comms challenges for her team.

She said: "The housing crisis is at its most acute in London, and is the top concern of our residents. As such, it’s a key focus for comms and the issues and audiences are manifold and complex. The Housing White Paper does little to alter that, as it contains no new policies to meaningfully address the issues in Hackney. It’s a real missed opportunity for genuine reform of the private rented sector. As a council, we’ll continue to lobby government to introduce something more substantial."


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