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Homeowners should have less power to object to new housing, says Lord Wolfson

Lord Wolfson
Lord Wolfson says current rules put too much power ‘in the hands of people who already own’ - Next Plc

Homeowners should have less power to challenge new housebuilding, the Conservative peer Lord Wolfson has said.

The chief executive of Next urged ministers to overhaul Britain’s planning system so that homeowners are less able to block new developments.

Speaking at an event at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Tuesday, Lord Wolfson said: “When you buy a home with a beautiful view, you don’t buy the view. All that land around your house, it’s not yours.”

He said that while homeowners have a right to stop nearby developments that threaten the value of their property, they should not be able to control everything in the surrounding areas.

Lord Wolfson said current rules put too much power “in the hands of people who already own”.

Britain’s antiquated planning system has been widely blamed for holding back housebuilding in recent years, with a backlog of 4.3 million homes emerging according to an analysis by the Centre for Cities.

The shortage of supply has made homes increasingly unaffordable.

Paul Cheshire, emeritus professor of economic geography at LSE and a former government adviser, warned that housing shortages and planning delays serve as a drag on the wider economy because they prevent people from moving for work and make it harder to do business.

As well as impacting the residential market, Lord Wolfson said planning delays also pose a problem for Next.

He said the retailer faces delays of up to four years to receive planning permission to build warehouses, which in turn leads to higher costs.

Overall, planning costs make up 10pc of the bill for any new development, he said, which creates a vicious cycle.

He said: “All that cost leads to worse homes, worse shops, worse offices and poor infrastructure.

“People [then] begin to think that actually new buildings are bad, and therefore we need more planning to stop it.”

Lord Wolfson said the “whole system needs to be rebooted” if more homes are to be built, which includes lowering costs for residential land.

He said: “In the small village that I live just outside Milton Keynes, an acre of agricultural land is worth about £15,000. An acre of land with planning permission for housing will be worth about £1.5m.

“That’s where all the money’s going, all the money that could be invested in better quality homes. All of that money is swallowed up in the land.”

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