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Councils given £3bn for 'getting country building'

Councils across England and Wales have been given almost £3.4 billion in the form of a New Homes Bonus as a reward for building more than 800,000 houses, according to housing minister Brandon Lewis.During the announcement, which was made on Wednesday (December 17th), Mr Lewis said that the figures demonstrated how more communities were agreeing to new developments, after planning reforms devolved power back to local authorities and local people.Government data has revealed that in the year to September, accepted planning permission applications climbed to 240,000, indicating that the locally-led system and incentives such as the New Homes Bonus are getting results.Mr Lewis said: "We've got the country building again and given local communities control over where new homes go in their area. This is in stark contrast to the housing crash and failed top-down regional strategies of the last government."In the year to October, councils have provided 154,000 newly-built homes and conversions, including 42,000 affordable houses, while also putting 10,000 empty properties to good use.Since the New Homes Bonus was introduced back in April 2011, more than 700,000 homes and conversions have been provided, and over 100,000 long-term empty houses have been filled. These achievements have led councils to be rewarded with the £3.4 billion, which includes £15 million for providing affordable homes.Councils are now free to spend this money any way they see fit, as long as it benefits residents in their areas, such as freezing Council Tax or supporting frontline services.Communities minister Stephen Williams added: "I want councils to go even further, and use the range of powers we’ve put in their hands to end the blight of empty properties in our neighbourhoods and bring them back into productive use for the families who need the stability and security new homes can provide."Some councils have decided to use this additional funding to ensure their communities see the benefits of growth in their areas.For example, Braintree council, which has allocated £750,000 of its bonus to affordable housing, while South Gloucestershire council has used it to give grants to community and social enterprise organisations, and town and parish councils to support them with their projects. 

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