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Planning, building and the environment

National housing and planning advice will help local authorities develop housing plans

Published 1 April 2010

Minister for Housing and Planning John Healey has today announced a wider remit for the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit. This builds upon its existing role in providing independent and expert advice to improve housing market affordability.

A review of the NHPAU found that the unit had successfully established itself as a source of independent and expert advice on regional housing numbers, and identified a significant appetite among stakeholders for the Unit to have a stronger role in developing the evidence base of local housing need and demand.

As part of its enhanced remit, the NHPAU will use its expertise on local and sub-regional housing markets to work collaboratively with local authorities and other stakeholders to improve the understanding of how local housing markets work. This will ensure that local plans are better informed and meet the needs and aspirations of local people.

John Healey said:

"The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit provides invaluable, impartial advice on the number of homes areas need. By widening their remit to support local authorities in planning for new housing, the unit will help to make sure that we build more homes and in the right places, underlining our commitment to provide the homes we need for this and future generations."

Notes to editors

1. The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit is a Non- Departmental Public Body (NDPB) sponsored by Communities and Local Government. It was established in June 2007 in response to Kate Barker's Review of Housing Supply (2004) and provides independent advice and strengthens the evidence and analysis on improving housing market affordability available to the planning bodies throughout the planning process.

2. The NHPAU comprises an expert Board and a small specialist team of around 13 staff. The Board shape and steer the work of the Unit. Day to day leadership is provided by the Chief Executive, Neil McDonald, who heads a Unit comprising economists, statisticians, planners and researchers.

3. A new Chair of the NHPAU, Dr Peter Williams, was appointed on 1 November 2009, and the Board members' appointments were extended to the end of February 2011.

4. The time commitment for the Board is around 2.5 days a month (maximum 30 days a year) with remuneration of £468 per day for the Chair and £350 per day for the Board Members.

5. The Board appointments have been made in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if any declared) to be made public. None of the appointees has declared any political activity.

6. The NHPAU enhanced unit is as follows:

Remit

To produce independent, evidence-based advice and research to inform the planning and delivery system for housing so that it in turn is better able to achieve the Government's objective of ensuring that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home, which they can afford, in a community where they want to live.

How the NHPAU will make a difference

We face a major challenge housing a growing population with rising incomes and expectations. Discussion of how many homes of what type should be built where has been greatly hampered by the lack of clear and impartial evidence about what is required or the consequences of different levels of provision, especially in terms of affordability. The NHPAU should enable better informed discussion and decision taking within the planning and delivery system for housing by:

  • publishing advice on the additional housing that is needed to maintain or improve its affordability
  • advising on how housing requirements should be assessed at the sub-regional and local levels
  • advising on the consequences of different levels of provision, including, where appropriate, on the consequences for economic, social and environmental sustainability
  • participating in the plan-making process at a strategic level as an independent expert body whose role is to help decision-takers understand the implications of the different options available to them and thus allow them to make better informed decisions
  • conducting or commissioning research to fill gaps in the evidence base or build understanding of the market and key blockages where to do so would help the planning and delivery system for housing to operate more effectively and efficiently.

How the NHPAU will work

In doing this the NHPAU will:

  • continue to maintain and develop an open dialogue with stakeholders involved in the planning and delivery system for housing
  • work collaboratively with local authorities and other bodies to develop an improved understanding of local housing markets and promote best practice in assessing housing requirements
  • ensure that its advice is objective and based on the best available evidence using methods that are clear, transparent and impartial
  • explain its advice and research concisely in clear and accessible language, actively promoting a better understanding of the issues.

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