An enterprise zone for Deeside, tax credits for gaming and TV tenants and investment in Network Rail's Northern Hub were among the main points in the Chancellor's statement.
Highlights of Chancellor George Osborne's 2012 Budget:
Enterprise zones: Enhanced capital allowances in Enterprise Zones, 100% on plant and machinery costs in Deeside in North Wales, along with London Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, three Scottish Enterprise Zones in Irvine, Nigg and Dundee. This follows announcements of ECAs in English Enterprise Zones in 2011.
Local Enterprise Partnerships in the North West will receive additional funding of over £31 million from the Growing Places Fund
Transport: Osborne said the Government would "support Network Rail to invest a further £130m in the Northern Hub rail scheme, subject to value for money, to improve transport links between Manchester and Sheffield, Rochdale, Halifax, Bradford, Bolton, Preston and Blackpool, and to increase capacity on the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield, which will enable the number of fast trains to double. This will build on previously announced investments to electrify the Transpennine railway route from Manchester to Leeds and build the Ordsall Chord between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria stations
Housing: Government will consult on potential role of a social housing Real Estate Investment Trust
Carbon Reduction Commitment: A consultation will take place into simplifying the Carbon Reduction Commitment energy efficiency scheme to reduce administrative burdens on business. Should administrative savings not be deliverable, Government will bring forward proposals in autumn 2012 to replace CRC revenues with an alternative environmental tax
Energy: A strategy for gas generation will be published in autumn 2012, recognising that gas-fired electricity generation will continue to play a major role in UK energy supplies over
the next decade and beyond;
Green Investment Bank will make its first set of green investments in April 2012
Stamp duty on homes worth more than £2m sheltered in a company raised to 15%. Individual-owned properties in excess of £2m face 7% stamp duty
Infrastructure: Osborne reaffirmed support for a new Pension Infrastructure Platform owned and run by UK pension funds, which will make the first wave of its initial £2bn investment in UK infrastructure by early 2013. A separate group of pension fund investors has also presented proposals to the Treasury for increasing pension plan investment in infrastructure in the construction phase
Technology: Government will introduce corporation tax reliefs from April 2013 for the video games, animation and high end television industries, subject to state aid approval and following consultation; has selected Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle to become super-connected cities, as part of the £100m investment announced at Autumn Statement 2011. By 2015 this will deliver ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and 200,000 businesses in high growth areas as well as high speed wireless broadband for three million residents. The Government will also provide an additional £50m to fund a second wave of ten smaller super-connected cities; will extend mobile coverage to 60,000 rural homes and along at least ten key roads by 2015, including the A2 and A29 in Northern Ireland, the A57, A143, A169, A352, A360 and A591 in England, the A82(T) in Scotland and the A470(T) in Wales, subject to planning permission, using the £150 million investment announced at Autumn Statement 2011. The Government will also consider whether direct intervention is required to improve mobile coverage for rail passengers
City deals: Government is working with the eight core cities on a package of measures to decentralise decision-making power away from central Government. The Government has agreed proposals with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to pilot an innovative new Earn Back Model that is set to unlock £1.2bn of infrastructure investment across the city region. This follows the agreement reached with Liverpool in February 2012, which established a new local development board. Proposals from Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield will be finalised over the course of 2012
National Planning Policy Framework: will be announced next Tuesday 27 March, contrary to predictions it would be announced today. It is understood Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, did not want the new planning blueprint to be viewed as a purely economic device. Osborne said: "The NPPF will refocus planning policy to better support growth, will include a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development to underpin all local plans and decisions, and will localise choice about the use of previously developed land, ending nationally imposed targets. The Government will also work with key statutory consultees to ensure that they support the delivery of sustainable development in line with the NPPF and are held to account for doing so."
The region's property and regeneration experts gave their responses to the Budget 2012 measures:
John Holmes, head of planning at law firm Hill Dickinson: "It was disappointing that the expected publication of the final NPPF has now been postponed to next Tuesday. However it is understood that DCLG argued that publication today could be construed as hiding bad news and that the document itself could be seen as a Treasury measure rather than a community one. It was interesting that the Chancellor confirmed that the presumption in favour of sustainable development would be in the final document which would be some 50 pages.
"And in a warning to Natural England, English Heritage and the Environment Agency, Statutory Consultees will be held to account to ensure their support for the delivery of development in line with the NPPF.
"In addition, the Government has announced that it will consult on the amendment of the Use Classes Order and permitted development rights to make changing the use of buildings easier.
"The Government will also publish its review of the Habitats Directive on Thursday with a view to reducing environmental regulations to avoid unnecessary cost and delay through the setting up of a Major Infrastructure and Environmental Unit with a view to amongst other things "changing the culture of statutory bodies'."
Mark Rawstron, senior director, GVA North West: "George Osborne needs to send a message that UK plc is open for business in a world context. That means some key themes like tax simplification, lifting the low paid from tax thresholds, and promoting a pro-business environment should all be made a priority.
"By that I mean 'exploding the myth' that success and money generation is a bad thing. The 50% tax rate is a case in point. It might be political to keep but damaging to the economy. In property terms the equivalent is Rates on empty property – if ever there was an unfair tax on business this is it.
"We should do everything in our power to encourage the UK to become a beacon for free enterprise in order to generate real wealth and help all the UK's population."
Steven Verity, director of Northern residential development consultancy at CBRE North West: "It is encouraging to see a reinvigoration of Right to Buy, which will enable more people to access homeownership. However, the intention to replace each property sold with a new affordable home puts a great deal of faith in the replacement mechanism. Mortgages are the core issue when it comes to housing and the government needs to take decisive action to remedy the situation instead of tinkering around the edges. At the peak of the market in 2007/08, revenue from stamp duty was over £14bn – it halved to £7bn in 2009/10. The Treasury has highlighted that money is tight, but it could significantly boost its revenue by investing in the mortgage market."
Brian Simpson, chief executive of Wirral Partnership Homes: "The next few years are going to be more challenging for social housing providers than ever before, with less income and more outgoings, not only for housing associations but also their tenants. The Government has called for 170,000 new affordable homes to be built over the next few years to meet the ever rising demand. However, there is a gap between the subsidy available and the cost of building these homes, so housing associations have had to find ways to build using alternative funds. Although the measures announced in the Budget hardly ease the shortfall in funding, the money pledged to boost the Get Britain Building Fund, and the £150m for Tax Increment Financing is a step in the right direction and it is encouraging that the government is looking into ways to raise new capital."