New RSS due at end of September

The Government Office for the North West will publish the latest planning blueprint for local authorities, the Regional Spatial Strategy, on 30 September.

The statutory document is expected to increase marginally the housing targets for the region to over 23,000 units a year in response to growing demand. The move will largely undo the strict constraints that have imposed a moratorium on new housing applications in around half of the region's council areas in recent years.

However, the collapse in the residential development market caused by the freeze on mortgage lending makes the timing of such a relaxation bitterly ironic.

Steven Abbott, an independent North West planning consultant, said: "Over the past five years, in much of the region, house builders and land owners have been adversely affected by moratoria on new residential permissions. This has stymied development and collapsed initiative on a massive scale. Unfortunately however, RSS eases the situation just when there are unprecedented collapses in the housing market and land values.

"The result is a conundrum, as the Government requires the construction or formation of millions of new homes by 2020 just when house builders have to contract significantly across the UK."

The new RSS also encourages local authorities not to set a ceiling on housing targets, another move likely to be welcomed by residential developers.

Planners and developers will be watching to see how the latest round of housing growth points are knitted into the figures. Greater Manchester, Mersey Heartlands, Halton, St Helens, Warrington, Knowsley, Central Lancashire and Blackpool, Carlisle and West Cheshire are all being given spatial status to build extra homes at a more rapid rate than other areas.

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