Government Housing White Paper – CPRE’s initial thoughts


23rd February 2017

The Housing White Paper has finally been published – read CPRE Oxfordshire’s initial thoughts on the Government’s reforms to the housing market.

On 7 February, the Government published its long awaited Housing White Paper “Fixing our broken housing market”, which sets out a broad range of reforms that government plans to introduce to help reform the housing market and increase the supply of new homes.

As part of the Housing White Paper, the Government is also holding a consultation on changes to planning policy and legislation in relation to planning for housing, sustainable development and the environment.

It is keen to hear from a wide range of interested parties from across the public and private sectors, as well as from the general public.

The consultation closes on 2 May.

The Housing White Paper – what does it say:

The four main planks of the White Paper are summarised by the Prime Minister Theresa May in her Foreword:

“First, we need more land for homes where people want to live. All areas need a plan to deal with the housing pressures they face and communities need a say in the homes that are built. We will require all areas to have up-to-date plans in place and ensure that communities are comfortable with how new homes look.

Second, we need to ensure that homes are built quickly once planning permissions are granted. We will invest in making the planning system more open and accessible, improve the co-ordination of public investment in infrastructure, support timely connections to utilities, and tackle unnecessary delays. We’re giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly.

Third, we will diversify the housing market, opening it up to smaller builders and those who embrace innovative and efficient methods. We will encourage housing associations and local authorities to build more, and we will work to attract new investors into residential development including homes for rent.

Finally, because building the homes we need will take time, we will also take more steps to continue helping people now, including by improving safeguards in the private rented sector, and doing more to prevent homelessness and to help households currently priced out of the market.”

CPRE’s initial thoughts on the White Paper:

CPRE is supportive of the focus on building at higher densities, a brownfield first policy (and greenfield and Green Belt last), and the need to encourage small and medium sized builders.

These have been long-standing campaign priorities for CPRE and we want to thank our supporters for ensuring that our campaigning is having such a strong influence on policy (see Housing Minister Gavin Barwell’s CPRE 2017 Annual Lecture below).

However we are concerned by the continued emphasis on building to bring down prices (which we don’t believe is the case), building in areas of high demand (such as Oxfordshire and the South East in general) and the proposed ‘housing delivery test’ (making the 5 Year Housing Supply situation even worse).

What does it say about the Green Belt?

In a nutshell, the Paper supports the protection of the Green Belt in principle (a victory for CPRE and others), but the devil is in the detail. For example, the White Paper sets out what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’, thereby potentially weakening the protection. 

There is no new protection for the Green Belt despite all the fine words in press statements. On the contrary, Councils are now invited to release it by going through a specified process (the sequential test) and prettying up some other bit they don’t intend to build on (yet).

Taken with absurdly high housing impositions, more threats of reducing Councils powers if they fail to meet them, and more compulsion for one Council to satisfy the demands of its neighbours, however unrealistic, the situation for the Green Belt has substantially worsened.

We can now only urge our Local Councils and Councillors to stand up for the Green Belt as the Government increasingly ceases to do so. And get our MPs to urge the Government to amend the White Paper to improve Green Belt protection rather than weaken it.

CPRE will be responding to the consultation.

Please email us with your thoughts.

Find out more: 


Read the initial reaction from CPRE National Office

See: Housing Minister Gavin Barwell’s CPRE 2017 Annual Lecture

Read more in the South East e-Bulletin, February 2007, ‘Fixing the broken housing market’ – Planning and Environmental News from CPRE South East


CPRE Oxfordshire, 23 February