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Scheme launched to stop infrastructure delays halting house building

Words: Laura Edgar

A pilot scheme to stop infrastructure hold-ups delaying construction of new homes has been launched by the Housing & Finance Institute.

The government has backed the scheme.

The strategy will be trialled in the South-East of England with the help of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Home Builders Federation, Essex County Council, Kent County Council and Anglian Water, amongst others.

Last year, the Housing and Finance Institute released a report that suggested that every water company in England failed its sewerage targets for house building as an average over 2015.

The institute said the scheme would consider closely developments that have been delayed by a lack of water, sewage, electricity, gas or road connectivity.

Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of the Housing & Finance Institute, said the lack of local infrastructure on new housing sites is “drastically slowing down” the rate of homes coming onto the market.

“Water and sewage connectivity is a particular problem, with some water companies completely failing to deliver what housing developers require. This has been slowing down the rate of housing completions right across the country.

“Our hope is that this new pilot scheme, which brings together key players from the private and public sectors, will provide us with a blueprint for fixing these issues and facilitating accelerated housing growth.”

The scheme will run until May 2017. Its initial report is due by the end of this month (January 2017).

The findings will be reported to housing minister Gavin Barwell and Stephen Hammond, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure.

Barwell welcomed the pilot scheme and “its focus on identifying ways of working together to overcome infrastructure barriers”.

Referring to the institute’s Delivering Large Scale Housing: Unlocking Schemes and Sites to Help Meet the UK’s Housing Needs (pdf), Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, highlighted two barriers to delivering large scale housing:

  • Infrastructure funding mechanisms are not effective in the current economic climate
  • Financial risk

The report recommends linking together infrastructure expenditure, policies and planning with policies and planning for housing in order to unlock potential sites. It also recommends that local authorities, infrastructure providers and government agencies should develop ways to pool departmental and European resources to deliver infrastructure that supports housing schemes.

Blyth said: “The RTPI is very well aware that the completion of sound local plans, the granting of planning permissions and especially the implementation of planning permissions is held up by disagreements about whose responsibility it is to provide essential infrastructure. This fragmentation of policy making, which has very long standing roots, needs to come to an end. Therefore we welcome this initiative and look forward to the lessons to be learned from it.”

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