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More faith in the planning profession is needed to end the housing crisis

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Northern Ireland has a population of 1.84 million, we are a dispersed population with 37% living in rural areas, we have by far the highest incidence of fuel poverty in the UK, about 40% of mortgages are in negative equity and over 22,414 households are experiencing some level of housing stress. According to housing growth indicators 11,300 homes are required annually, the actual number of completions of around 8,000 falls somewhat short. On a more positive note, we have the most successful help to buy scheme in the UK with 1 in 5 first time buyers relying on co-ownerships. And we hear rumours of more optimism.

We have massive issues ahead with regards to affordability if the housing supply shortage is not addressed, which will continue to become more profound as we will once again see house prices inflate at unsustainable rates.  I have been working recently with planning students, all of whom see home ownership as something unobtainable to them for some time to come.

As these issues rumble on we are dealing with more turbulence than usual in our local authority structure as councils and the entire planning system are being reformed. What does this mean for investors and developers? What message are they receiving and how are we being perceived? Our politicians regularly enthuse that Northern Ireland is ‘open for business’ but what is needed to support these claims?

We need support and investment for the new and restructured planning authorities.  There is a level of uncertainly amongst officers, elected members, the public and investors. We need to see flexibility in the delivery of the system that will offer investors more sureness and reduce the delays and unnecessary risks they currently face. We are a highly skilled and competent profession and confidence needs to be restored, politicians must lead the way in restoring the faith and trust in the planning profession and the development of a community planning structure in Northern Ireland.


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Written by Claire Williamson | Posted on 3rd April 2015

Northern Ireland Policy Officer at the Royal Town Planning Institute. Claire has been working as RTPI NI Policy Officer since January 2012 and has been heavily involved in the consultation process surrounding planning reform in Northern Ireland. Claire has gained a wealth of experience in a a variety of sectors including retail, commercial, education, rural and residential over the past 15 years. She also lectures on a part time basis at Ulster University in Planning and Property Development.

Website: http://www.rtpi.org.uk/the-rtpi-near-you/rtpi-northern-ireland/