No surprises as the Queen’s Speech laid out the Government’s plans for the year ahead, including several changes to housing policy. Three million new homes are to be built by 2020 (as outlined in the green paper in July). The Housing and Regeneration Bill establishes a new agency to drive forward the provision of affordable and ‘green’ housing. And a new planning bill is expected to make it easier for councils to build homes and for more building on brownfield sites.
The Charity Commission has announced that it is to investigate claims the National Trust is abusing its position by trying to block government plans to allow the development of green belt land. If the Trust is found to have breached guidelines, it could have its accounts frozen and trustees removed. The move to buy up land earmarked by the government has divided Trust members, with some fearing the charity is crossing over from conservation issues into political campaigning.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has also given a warning that it will fight the legislation, and has joined Planning Disaster, a coalition of environmental and social organisations, which believe the new bills cut local communities out of planning decisions and will lead to an onslaught of fast track building. The CPRE said the planning reform bill ‘looks like a developers’ charter’.
Northern Rock mortgage lending has plummeted by up to 80 per cent since facing their credit crisis in September. Before the run on the bank, it had taken a fifth of all new lending in the UK, but this proportion has dropped dramatically, after more than 100 lending products were removed, and fees were raised along with fixed interest rates (now running close to a percentage point above their rivals).