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Will the Autumn Budget deliver 300,000 new homes?

The Budget brought a range of positive announcements, but was tempered with a gloomier economic forecast. There is money committed to certain areas of the economy including housing and infrastructure, and there is a bid to provide 300,000 houses per year. The headlines are therefore that the Government is listening and recognises that in the pre- and post-Brexit world there is a need for economic growth as part of a sustainable economy.

In Spawforths’ world, the housing proposals are important, but there are big questions about how this will be funded and what form it will take. The blame for lack of housing supply has often fallen to the large housebuilders, and whilst they need to play their part, the decline in supply since the 1970’s has actually been the decline of the public sector supply. The focus in recent times has been on renewal (removal of high density social housing with lower density arrangements) which has not addressed the demand. The recent economic downturn also restricted other areas of the market with the decline of small and medium enterprises (SME). The good news is that the SME’s are coming back and the traditional registered social landlord’s are becoming market facing and acquisitive which presents a much more proactive and potentially sustainable model. The Government has announced that they are “making available £15.3 billion of new financial support for housing over the next five years, bringing total support for housing to at least £44 billion over this period”.

Alongside this there is a promise of “planning reforms that will ensure more land is available for housing, and that maximises the potential in cities and towns for new homes while protecting the Green Belt”. There appears to be a mismatch in a seemingly positive attitude to development with a confirmation of protectionism. What this means is that those Authorities with Green Belt may be more constrained which will have implications for delivery and economic growth potential. The North of England has a significant proportion of Green Belt land, so it will be interesting to see how this fits in with the indicated commitment to the Northern Powerhouse. Devolution may also play a key role here with different areas competing for funding, perhaps a clear imperative for Yorkshire to nail its colours to the mast or risk losing out in the beauty parade.

Will the plans announced to urgently review the gap between planning permissions and homes being built really help to hit an ambitious annual target to build 300,000 new homes…? We’re not convinced!

The economy is also being given a boost with commitment to transport (£1.7 billion new transforming cities fund through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to improve connectivity and support jobs across England’s great city regions), research and development (a further £2.3 billion in 2021-22), long term investment (unlocking over £20 billion of patient capital, over the next 10 years so that innovative high-growth firms can achieve their full potential), emerging tech and skills to create a better paid workforce. There does not appear to be an indication of how economic development will be supported through the planning system to achieve this and the link between economic development and housing need. Green Belt is equally an issue for employment land supply as it is for housing, but it highlights the politicisation of the Green Belt in how it is viewed differently in planning terms.

To meet the economic needs and provide the context for prosperity, there is a requirement for a genuine commitment to delivery of critical infrastructure and to provide the context in which development may come forward in a measured and sustainable way.

Spawforths are working across the North of England to promote land and development opportunities through the planning system from inception to reality. We have a strong track record in identifying and creating the conditions from which development can come forward on brownfield, greenfield and Green Belt land. Speak to us about your development needs. Please visit our page or have a look on our website to see what we do and how we do it.

24 November 2017

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