It’s been nearly 18 months since Sajid Javid, the then Housing Minister published the White Paper “Fixing the Broken UK Housing Market”. In the meantime, Rotherham property values have continued to rise at a rate of 3.1% (year on year for the council area) but the number of new homes being constructed locally bumps along at a snail’s pace, creating a potential perfect storm for those looking to buy and sell.

The White Paper is important for those in Rotherham and the rest of the UK, as it will ensure we have long-term stability and longevity in property market as whole. Rotherham home-owners and landlords need to be aware of the issues in the report to ensure they don’t lose out. The White Paper wanted more homes to be built in the next couple of decades, so it might seem counter-intuitive for existing home-owners and landlords to encourage more homes to be built and a change in the direction of housing provision – as this would appear to have a negative effect on their own property.

Yet the country needs a diversified and fluid property market to allow the economy as whole to grow and flourish, which in turn will be a greater influence on whether prices go up or down in the long term. I am sure every homeowner or landlord in Rotherham doesn’t want another housing crisis like we had in 1974, 1988 and most recently in 2008.

Since it’s publication, Sajid Javid has moved on to the Home Secretary role, so now James Brokenshire (the 17th Housing Minister in 20 years) has been given the task of making this White Paper come alive.

What was the main points in the White Paper?

The first of the four points brought up was a proposal to give local authorities powers to speed up house building and ensure developers complete new homes on time. Secondly, the White Paper suggested statutory methods demanding local authorities and builders build at higher densities (i.e. more houses per hectare) where appropriate. The other two points were incentives for smaller builders to take a larger share of the new homes market and help for people renting.

However, the two initial points of planning and density are what this article is most interested in…

1. Planning

For planning to work, we need a robust Planning Department.

Looking at data from the Local Government’s Association, in Rotherham the council spends below the regional average – only £20.75 per person compared with the regional average of £37.35 per head. This means the planning department will be hard pressed to meet those targets.

However, 100% of planning applications are decided within the statutory 8-week initial period, above the regional average of 87% (see the graph below). I am therefore slightly disappointed and also pleased with the numbers for our local authority when it comes to the planning and the budget allowed by our politicians to this vital service.

2. Density of Population

9 people live in every hectare (or 2.471 acres) in Rotherham

It won’t surprise you that 231,177 of 257,280 Rotherham residents live in the urban conurbations of the authority, giving a density of 16.3 people per hectare (again – much lower than I initially thought), whilst the villages have a density of 1.8 people per hectare.

I would agree with the Government’s ambition to make more efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities is good to have. It is important that the form of development reflects the character, accessibility and infrastructure of the area.

It’s all very good building lots of houses – but we need the infrastructure to go with it.

Talking to a lot of Rotherham people, their biggest fear of all this building is a lack of infrastructure for those extra houses (the extra roads, doctors surgeries, schools etc.). I know most Rotherham homeowners and landlords want more houses to be built to house their family and friends… but irrespective of the density, it’s the infrastructure that goes with the housing that is just as important. The White Paper failed to go as far as I feel it should have done.

I believe there are interesting times ahead.