Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister: Property industry reacts
Truss needs to hit the ground running if she hopes to deliver on her campaign promise to double down on levelling up the country, according to leaders in the built environment.
In a tighter victory than had been expected, favourite Liz Truss beat Rishi Sunak for the top government spot. Truss claimed 81,326 votes during the Conservative Party leadership contest, while Sunak garnered 60,399.
Throughout her campaign, Truss promised to have 300,000 new homes built every year in the UK if she was elected. She also pledged to bring back the Northern Powerhouse Rail project and construct an HS2 line between Manchester and Leeds.
The key to achieving the new Prime Minister’s goals could lie in planning reform, according to Royal Town Planning Institute chief executive Victoria Hills. Her remarks come after a recent RTPI report revealed local authorities have reduced spending on planning by 43% within the last decade.
Hills said: “During her race to Prime Minister, Liz Truss pledged to double down on levelling up and spark a new industrial revolution. But she’ll need to make immediate progress with planning reform in her first weeks in office if she wants to achieve these goals…
“While we agree with Liz Truss that our planning system is imperfect, complex and faces significant challenges, planners cannot be expected to do more with less in perpetuity,” Hills continued.
“Particularly in a time of high inflation, we need a timely responsive planning service, but this can only be achieved if it is appropriately resourced.
“Planning is one of the most important functions that local authorities have to improve resident’s lives. Without better quality planning services, communities will miss opportunities to level up, deliver vital housing, improve health outcomes and tackle climate change.”
Danny Crump, director of urbanism at Broadway Malyan, echoed Hill’s remarks.
Crump said: “Who knows what will happen to Boris’s promised ‘Levelling Up’ under new leadership. But by taking up the mantle of community-led urban regeneration and high street revitalisation, especially in the current climate of soaring costs and high inflation, a new-look government can support the growth of local jobs and the recovery of city and town centre commerce while delivering the regional revival promised under the original policy.
“For this to work though, Truss must focus where the British people live, work and play,” Crump said.
“While the high street has suffered a decline in recent years, a new system of devolved regional planning control could revolutionise town and city centres across the North West, Yorkshire and the North East, and could mark the foundation on which our most disaffected regions are rebuilt.”
Housing must be a focus
James Blakey, planning director at Moda Living, wants Truss to zero-in on the lack of homes in the country.
“Now that the new Prime Minister has been announced after weeks of uncertainty, we hope to see Liz Truss work with the UK residential sector to address the appalling lack of suitable homes in the UK, across the spectrum of tenures, requirements and price points,” he said.
“The spotlight on the shortage of rental homes in particular is evidence that the government has been too preoccupied with home ownership and must more enthusiastically embrace professionally managed, institutionally funded rental living products such as build-to-rent or single-family housing,” Blakey continued.
“With more support on planning, land and delivery, it can relieve the existing pressure on the UK rental market.”
James Hyman, head of residential at Cluttons, also felt like housing needs to be a priority.
“In order to alleviate the UK’s housing shortage, the government needs to look at reinstating tax allowances and incentives for private landlords to encourage them back into the market,” Hyman said.
“The main reason why rents have escalated so quickly over the last two years has been lack of supply, which has been driven by so many private landlords being forced to exit the market due to the government no longer making it viable to be a private landlord.
“Furthermore, to help meet the country’s current housing supply requirements, the new Prime Minister needs to address the huge post-pandemic, planning consent bottleneck within local authorities.”
Transport is key
Steve Hogg, head of the North West at JLL, meanwhile said that Truss’s focus needs to be on transport.
“Businesses in the North West will be hoping Liz Truss’ confirmation as Prime Minister signals a return to the priorities set out by this government in 2019,” Hogg said.
“Firms in the region need to see a strong commitment to investing in the region’s public transport system – especially at a time when connections to the capital are under strain – healthcare and its fast-growing digital and tech sectors, but they’ll also be hoping Andy Burnham is given more power to deliver on his manifesto pledges.
Only by recommitting to engaging with and listening to business and civic leaders across the North West, will we see true progress on the levelling up agenda.”
The environment cannot wait
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said that green reform in the form of a retrofit strategy needs to be at the top of Truss’s agenda.
“The UK is fronting an unprecedented energy crisis with over 12 million households facing fuel poverty,” Berry said.
“This dire and unsustainable situation requires immediate commitment to a long-term national retrofit plan to insulate our 29 million homes to cut energy consumption and reduce bills.”
He added later: “Liz Truss has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our existing homes to help ensure everyone has a place they can afford to heat.
“A national retrofit strategy also offers the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and deliver growth in every village, town, and city. The energy crisis needs a green revolution, but this requires bold leadership, so I’m looking to Liz Truss to deliver.”
Now is the time for Truss to unite the Conservative Party and deliver on the previous administration’s levelling up policies, according to Vu.City chief executive Jamie Holmes.
“Levelling up featured in neither candidates’ campaigns and reneging on promises to ‘level up’ left-behind towns and cities, coupled with a spate of political scandals, is the perfect recipe for distrust and disillusionment,” Holmes said.
“Creating a disconnect between politicians and voters could make the Conservatives fundamentally unelectable, marking the end of their 12-year reign.
Holmes continued: “The Conservative Party must heal the rifts created by the leadership battle – Truss and Sunak tore each other apart like children in the playground – but now must have an eye on the bigger picture. The government needs to sharply refocus on levelling up or risk breaking the trust of the nation for good.”