Property figures react to Government coalition pact

Michael Hunt

Following a dramatic evening with David Cameron replacing Gordon Brown as Prime Minister to form a coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, property professionals have spoken about what impact this will have on the industry.

Gerry Hughes, executive director of GVA Grimley's Manchester planning, development and regeneration team, said: "Before any general or local election we often find that clients choose to delay the submission of planning applications and that Local Planning Authorities stay the preparation of development plan documents. Both are keen to avoid making critical decisions until the political dust has settled. This election was no different, with clients in both the public and private sector choosing not to progress certain matters in the run up to 6 May. With an agreement made between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, planning reform is firmly on the agenda.

"What is still unclear, and may remain so for many weeks, is how long it will take for the new Government to work their manifesto pledges through parliament and see them passed as new legislation. With the economy clearly taking priority, it may take around 12 months for new planning and development policies to take effect. With radical change – such as the proposal of an 'open source' planning system – featuring in the Tory manifesto and similar suggestions being made by the Lib Dems, we anticipate that those clients who have delayed submitting planning applications will now rush to do so, in order to have them assessed in the light of current policy."

Stephen Bell, a director at GVA Grimley in the Manchester planning, development and regeneration team, said: "There is much common ground in the Tory and Lib Dem manifesto pledges regarding planning and development, so this is likely to be an 'easy win' area – and therefore perhaps a priority matter – within any agreement made between the two parties. What we will all wait with bated breath to see is whether the manifesto pledges may be 'softened' following a period of consultation and the process of taking the new policies through parliament.

"While property and land values have risen since the market bottomed in late 2008/early 2009, the industry is still incredibly fragile and measures need to be put in place to encourage new development. As a case in point, the rate of construction for new houses is still under half the level that the 2006 Barker Report anticipated was required each year to meet demand across the UK. It would be hugely counter-productive if, for example, by abandoning national and regional house building targets, development is stymied just as developer appetite returns."

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "We welcome this new government and hope that we can work closely with it to ensure that its aims of delivering a fairer society and more stable economy can be fulfilled.

"Property – whether its homes and schools or shops and offices – has a major role to play in politics, not least because the taxpayer now owns £150bn through the state owned banks. It is thus essential that the new Treasury team restore empty rate relief as a means of being fair and helping business.

"It is also vital that regeneration and investment in our communities is put high up the agenda, and that we incentivise the institutions to deliver a professional private rented sector so that the million extra renters of the last decade have quality homes to live in. Real change needs to mean just that.

"Planning will continue to be a hotly debated topic, not least because the Tory policy of third party appeals – where anyone can oppose a planning consent – would cause chaos. Some councils are cutting 25% of planners and with more cuts to come, we must not clog up the system by needlessly increasing appeals.

"We have been impressed by the Tories' openness and hope we can now work jointly with them and the Lib Dems to help deliver their agenda for change. We have confidence that new chancellor George Osborne will calm the markets and the inclusion of Vince Cable will offer a good balance of energy and experience to the first Budget in six weeks."

Commenting on the new government's plan to increase capital gains tax on non-business assets, Stuart Law, chief executive of Assetz, said: "The new coalition government's proposed Capital Gains Tax increase on non-business assets is likely to have a negative impact on property investment in the UK. Continued stability of the current 18% tax rate is imperative in driving investor activity and securing a full recovery for the property market. Any exorbitant increase on the tax rate, with current figures suggesting this could reach as high as 50%, will only slow economic growth and scupper the government's promise to revitalise the markets."

Despite winning the most seats in last week's general election, the Conservatives did not secure an overall Commons majority, which resulted in a hung parliament.

After days of talks between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, as well as talks between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, on forming a new government, a deal was reached last night that resulted in Labour leader Gordon Brown resigning from his position and as Prime Minister.

Conservatives leader Cameron was installed as the new PM, the youngest prime minister since 1812, and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg was announced as his deputy.

Clegg is one of five Liberal Democrats that will take cabinet posts in what is the first coalition government in the UK for 70 years.

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