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22/11/2017

Autumn Budget 2017: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / Shutterstock_84968503

The Autumn Budget 2017 featured a number of housing, planning and devolution announcements, with industry professionals welcoming them in part, but feelings of being underwhelmed and opportunities being missed are rife.

Inquiry into permission and build-out is not what we need

 

Stephen Wilkinson, president of the RTPI, said Hammond has missed the chance to tackle the “dysfunctional” land market, which is the “fundamental cause of the housing crisis”. He suggested that the chancellor could have introduced measures to capture the increase in land value for public good or make it easier for councils to compulsorily purchase land.

“Another inquiry into the discrepancy between planning permission level and building-out rate is not what we need, the issue is a complex one which has been extensively reported on. We need firm action now as we are losing time, as prices may rise as an unintended consequence of the abolition of the stamp duty for first time buyers.

“There are a number of positive announcements, such as the commitment to new garden towns, backing the Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor, and a focus on construction in urban centres, but we need to see the details. On the whole, this is a missed opportunity to solve the housing crisis.”

City-centric

 

Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Kent County Council, said the housing announcements recognises that to the required home, “we need strategic planning and infrastructure investment on the county-wide scale”.

The commitments in Oxfordshire and the South East, an increase in the housing and infrastructure fund and lifting the Housing Revenue Account cap for high-demand areas “should be strongly welcomed and act as a model for other areas across England”.

However, Carter said many of the announcements, “particularly the money for metro-mayors, were city-centric”.

“The Industrial Strategy, to be published shortly, must ensure that resource stretches beyond the cities.”

Short on planning ammunition

 

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at consultancy Rapleys, said: “This Budget looks decidedly short on any real planning ammunition at all.. In fact, he said, Hammond underwhelmed when it came to planning reform.

“As the chancellor closed the red box, the lack of any concrete commitment on reforming the planning system to bring forward the housing that the government says it wants to bring forward is a concern, and we are left wondering how this Budget was anything different to the many that have gone before.

“While many in the property industry will be buoyed by the reforms to stamp duty land tax for first-time buyers and business rates, the lack of progress on planning risks undermining what was, we were led to believe, intended to be a blockbuster housing Budget.”

Housebuilders ‘do not’ land bank

 

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, noted the 300,000 homes a year target, stating that the government needs to continue to develop policies that will build on the big increases in supply of recent years.

“The measures announced [in the Budget] will assist by stimulating demand and helping broaden the supply base of new homes. But much more needs to be done, in particular with regards to the planning system, if the target is to be met.”

“As has been proved by numerous independent investigations in the past, housebuilders do not land bank. Housebuilders have nothing to fear from a review of land banking and if it identifies non-housebuilders who are sitting on land and brings that forward for development it would be a positive move. Any review should also focus on why so many plots that some suggest are in a builders ‘land bank’ are mired in the planning system and identify ways to process them more quickly so they can actually be built.”

Learning from the past

 

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said she welcomed the chancellor’s announcement of five new gardens towns, but also called on the government to commit to the garden city principles to ensure these new garden towns “will be happy, healthy and affordable places to live and work”.

“A key lesson from the past is that success depends on national and local government doing their homework on the right locations for new towns. While the chancellor said new garden towns would be in high-demand areas such as the South East, he didn’t announce where they would be located. New towns can’t be produced like a rabbit out of a hat; they require an expert process of site selection, real community engagement and a long-term commitment to the highest-quality design standards on everything from accessibility to climate change.”

 

Remains to be seen if measures will work in practice

 

Dominick Veasey, associate director at Nexus Planning, said: “The Budget’s wide-ranging package of financial and planning reforms must be welcomed if we are to have any hope of solving the housing crisis. However, it remains to be seen how many of the measures announced will work in practice.

“In particular, one has to question whether the new £204 million fund for innovation and skills in the construction sector will sufficiently deliver the new homes required. Especially within the context of Brexit uncertainty, resourcing of skilled construction workers will be a significant concern over the short to medium term.

“Furthermore, the budget is silent on the extent to which the necessary raw construction materials are available. Memories of the post-recession ‘brick shortage’ are still clear in many people’s minds.”

 

Fails to improve biodiversity

 

Ben Kite, managing director of ecological consultancy EPR, said the Budget should have set aside funds to “assist with the implementation of sensitive housing development projects on carefully selected sites within the green belt. Such projects, incorporating generous green infrastructure, would have provided not only social, but environmental benefits”.

He said the Budget “marks the failure to grasp another tantalising opportunity to improve biodiversity by using development to create new wildlife habitats, which would have benefitted the environment as well as encouraging communities to reconnect with nature”.

Good signal of intent

 

David Orr, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, said he welcomed the housing announcements.

“However, the big challenge for the nation remains the supply of new affordable housing. We share the government’s ambition of reaching 300,000 new homes a year, every year for the foreseeable future.

“Today’s package of measures are a good signal of intent from the chancellor. On their own, they may make an incremental difference, but will not deliver a step change in the supply of new homes.

“A long-term supply of affordable land is the critical factor. We will need the government to ensure that public land is used for housing and that private land is bought where it is needed to create new communities.”

 

London Assembly to contribute to review

 

Nicky Gavron AM, chair of the planning committee, said the committee welcomed the move to appoint Oliver Letwin MP as that chair of a review into delays in homes with planning permissions being built.

“In London there are planning permissions for 270,000 new homes - that is nearly five years supply of the housing London so desperately needs and 10 years at the levels achieved previously.

The chancellor's announcement to appoint Oliver Letwin MP to chair a review is welcome, but the London Assembly has already done the research and has a package of measures to unblock supply.

The assembly understands the review will report by the spring of next year, in time for the financial statement. We will contribute to this review as a matter of urgency. What we want is action, which is why we urge the government to intervene in whatever way necessary to ensure this land is used for housing."

    The Budget 2017 document can be found on the UK Government website.


    Read more:

    Autumn Budget 2017: Stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers; garden towns; £15bn extra for housing market

    Autumn Budget 2017: Devolution deal for North of Tyne; local growth; electric vehicle infrastructure

    RTPI sets out agenda for chancellor to tackle housing crisis

    Government adviser urges new focus on modular housing 

    Hammond sets 300,000 homebuilding target


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