A £17 million programme to encourage local communities to build more houses has yet to result in a single house being built.
The Community Right to Build was launched as a “radical” new policy in 2012 with the promise that it would enable communities who want new housing to hold a referendum on any development and bypass their local council’s planning department.
But not one such referendum has been held since the policy was rolled out two years ago, a freedom of information request shows. As a result, no houses or other projects have been completed under the scheme.
Ministers put aside £17 million of funding for the policy at its launch, with costs including maintaining a website and advisers for prospective bidders. The communities department said it was possible that houses would eventually be built under the scheme since two local groups have submitted five proposals, although they have to be put to a vote.
“For too long communities have had to use their energy fighting development they didn’t want rather then putting it to use bringing about the homes, shops and facilities they did,” he said. “The Community Right to Build completely changes that and puts communities in the driving seat.”
Advice on the scheme’s website says the new power encourages development “without having to go through a lengthy and cumbersome planning process”, which some have blamed for preventing housebuilding.
A communities department spokesperson did not deny the scheme has yet to result in a single house being built: “The Community Right to Build is one of a range of powers giving local people more say over the future of their area,” they said. “To date there have been over 2000 uses of Community Rights, including five ongoing Community Right to Build Orders granted Government funding, well over 1,000 areas creating neighbourhood plans, and 28 neighbourhood plans have passed referendums.”
The policy is not to be confused with the government’s Right to Build, announced this year, which deals with the selling off council land for housebuilding, and has a similar name.