National Housing and Planning Advice Unit

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National Housing and Planning Advice Unit
National Housing and Planning Advice Unit logo.jpg
Non-departmental public body overview
Formed 2006 (2006) (officially launched June 2007)
Dissolved 28 June 2010
Jurisdiction England

CB04. Ground Floor of Clerical Block

Segensworth Road, Titchfield, Fareham PO15 5RR, England, United Kingdom
Motto Building Awareness For The Future
Employees 12
Parent department Department for Communities and Local Government
Website /

The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU) was a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (officially termed a non-departmental public body) set up by the Government of the United Kingdom in 2006[1] and formally launched in June 2007,[2] with the aim of advising the government on the impact of planned housing provision on affordability,[3] and in an attempt to counteract the growing numbers of citizens who were struggling to get on the property ladder in England. The body was part of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DC&LG) [1] and was abolished in the 2010 UK quango reforms.[1][2][4]


Founded in 2006 in response to increasing house prices, lack of affordable housing and as the result of the direct recommendation of Kate Barker’s March 2004 Review of Housing Supply,[5] in which it was recommended that a body be created which could offer expert advice on housing matters, particularly that of affordability. Officially launched in June 2007, the body was originally chaired by Professor Stephen Nickell[6] CBE, FBA[7] (former warden of Nuffield College, Oxford),[8] he held this role until November 2009 when Dr. Peter Williams became the body's chair.[6] According to then Secretary of State Yvette Cooper, the body had a budget of £1,459,000 for its first year of operation in 2007/2008 and had twelve full time equivalent paid staff.[8] The then secretary of state also gave details of the original board members, them being:

The body's original purpose was to advise government, planners and other regional bodies on the subject of housing affordability and on the consequences of different housing level provision when they carried out works pertaining to the provision of planned housing (which they had been required to do since April 2007),[5] to conduct and commission research relating to the housing market to gain a greater understanding of the housing situation,[5] and to assist in the implementation of Kate Barker’s housing supply review .[3] The unit's logo was designed by Lindsay Robertson of design collective Words and Stuff – the logo was designed to be a simple demonstration of the unit's functions – a speech bubble containing a graphical representation of a house; the unit aims to comment and advise on issues pertaining to housing so the logo was designed to reflect as such.[9]

The unit's board met monthly to discuss the unit's currents performance and to steer it in the right direction. Initial board appointments were made on 1 November 2006 – appointments being made on behalf of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government through open competition for a term of three years.[10] These terms were extended in October 2009 for a further sixteen months, but Prof. Stephen Nickell chose to step down to 'concentrate on other interests',[10] the office of Chair was filled by existing board member Dr Peter Williams.[6][10] The Chief Executive was Neil McDonald, who managed a team of technical professionals such as economists, statisticians, geographers or planners.Neil McDonald took over from the first Chief Executive Kevin Williamson who set up the unit.

The unit held a Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons in May 2009 to raise awareness of the work carried out by the NHPAU, which was opened by David Drew.[10] A review of the unit in autumn 2009 found that the organisation was performing well, and suggested it should also consider conducting research for local authorities into the housing market,[2] improve the level of accessibility of the unit's publication and work closer with local bodies.[10] In response to the review of the unit,[10] and also to their paper published in February 2010 entitled Evaluating the requirements for market and affordable housing [1]– which provides an alternative to expensive local income surveys, by providing model guidance on Strategic Housing Market Assessments [11]– on 1 April 2010 a ministerial statement from the DC&LG[5] announced that the NHPAU had a new, extended remit.[10] The remit was expanded to enable the unit to work closer with local authorities, at local and sub-regional levels,[11] and a new project was announced which will research whether the availability of low-cost housing could be affected by activities other than simply property building.[1] Then Minister of State for Housing and Planning John Healey said that the changes will ensure "the unit will help to make sure that we build more homes and in the right places",[12] and then chair of the unit Dr. Peter Williams went on to say this:

The local area is where sites are identified, planning decisions are made and the delivery pipeline managed. In short it is where homes are built. It is also where economic theory and demographic projections meet practical reality. The overriding aim of our Board and expert team will be to help local authorities and sub-regional bodies make the planning and delivery system for housing work in a way which makes a difference to housing need. This is vital if everyone is to have a home that meets their needs at a price they can afford

— Dr. Peter Williams, Chair of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit[11]

Shortly after the extension of the unit's remit, the 2010 general election was held, which saw a new Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government take office, which undertook the quango reforms (often referred to by the media as the bonfire of the quangos).[13] As a result of these reforms, the NHPAU was listed for closure. The decision was announced on 28 June 2010,[1] a DC&LG spokesperson stated that:

The government has decided to close the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit with immediate effect. This decision has been taken in order to rationalise the number of advisory bodies and to make savings.

— Department for Communities and Local Government[2]

The DC&LG made clear that the closure did not in any way show a lack of commitment on housing or understanding of the important issue of housing affordability, but that it was a stage in moving away from a "bottom-up rather than top-down approach that allowed local communities to control the way in which villages, towns and cities developed through local plans".[10] Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, described former house-building targets as "soviet",[14] and communications and public affairs manager Jamie Hodge of the Royal Town Planning Institute stated that the closure was "understandable" in the current economic climate, but praised the work of the unit for being "a reliable source of objective data, helping further understanding of housing supply and affordability".[2]

According to Prof. Stephen Nickell in June 2007, by 2026 the average house price would rise to 10 times average earnings from the current 7 times.

Published works[edit]

The following[10] is a chronological list of works formally published by the NHPAU:





  1. ^ a b c d e f "National Housing and Planning Advice Unit". Department for Communities and Local Government. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hardman, Isabel (29 June 2010). "Government axes housing advice unit". Ocean Media Group. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "National Housing and Planning Advice Unit". Yorkshire and Humber Assembly. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "PUBLIC BODIES REFORM – PROPOSALS FOR CHANGE" (PDF). Directgov. p. 6. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d "NHPAU welcomes expanded remit". Department for Communities and Local Government. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "Appointment at National Housing and Planning Advice Unit". 23 November 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Press statement in response to housing announcement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown". Department for Communities and Local Government. 12 July 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Jacqui Lait and Yvette Cooper (15 Oct 2007). "National Housing and Planning Advice Unit". Hansard. House of Commons/ pp. Column 858W. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Robertson, Lindsay. "National Housing and Planning Advice Unit". Words and Stuff. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i "National Housing and Planning Advice Unit Annual Report 2009/2010" (PDF). National Housing and Planning Advice Unit. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Mannering, Robin (7 April 2010). "NPAU remit extended by CLG". Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Morris, Huw (1 April 2010). "Healey extends unit's remit". Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Gibbon, Gary (14 October 2010). "'Bonfire of the quangos' revealed". Channel 4. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Islam, Faisal (2 September 2010). "Councils 'abandon' 100,000 new homes plan". Retrieved 13 June 2012. 

External links[edit]