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Pilot scheme calls for special powers to stop utilities delaying housebuilding

Words: Huw Morris

The government must introduce measures to stop utility companies delaying housebuilding, according to the conclusions of a major pilot scheme.

The Housing and Finance Institute, which led the scheme, is calling on the government to introduce special powers forcing utility companies to deliver connections to new homes on time. It is also lobbying for a new housing innovation fund to promote different ways of tackling the housing crisis with housebuilding included as a national infrastructure priority.

Currently a water company may take between six months and a year to connect a property and still meet their regulatory target. Under the Utility Direction Powers, the Planning Inspectorate, the Homes and Communities Agency or the secretary of state could serve a direction requiring utility companies to bring forward connections to a site within a specified time. These would include a ‘take or pay’ guarantee to the utility company in the event that the homes do not come forward as expected.    

The recommendations follow a six-month government-backed pilot scheme launched in response to failing water companies severely infringing the ability of private developers to build more homes.

The pilot also calls for more transparency about what homes are being built and when, plus new independent arbitrators to bridge the gap between developers and utility companies.

“Too often, new homes are being delayed by hold-ups with utilities,” said the institute’s chief executive Natalie Elphicke. “Water, broadband and sewage connectivity is a particular problem, with some water companies completely failing to deliver what housing developers require.

“Infrastructure for housing is also at creaking point in some parts of the country. We won’t make the changes needed by doing things the same old way, which is why we are calling for a new housing innovation fund to promote different and better ways of addressing the housing crisis.”

The pilot scheme brought together representatives from across the country including South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Home Builders Federation, Laing O’Rourke, Anglian Water, Keepmoat Homes, Kent County Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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