In the first Queen’s speech of the new Government, Her Majesty passed a range of measures including the extension of Right to Buy, devolution of decision-making powers to cities, legislation on the first phase of HS2 and streamlining of the planning process.
Steve Errington, chief executive of Story Homes, commented on the Housing Bill: “Story Homes welcomes the Government’s plans for starter homes which will help to provide more houses for first-time buyers – who are the lifeblood of the housing market.
“A streamlined planning process through the Local Development Order process is welcome, as is the potential to work in partnership with local authorities to ensure the identified sites work from a developer’s point of view. Unlocking brownfield land is a very positive move. However the shortfall of new housing supply will not be fulfilled with brownfield land alone.”
Gary Halman, managing partner of HOW Planning, said: “Today’s Queen’s speech includes little in the way of hard detail but commits the new Government to some key measures relevant to planning and housing in particular.
“A new statutory register of brownfield land is promised, designed to help drive the creation of Local Development Orders, which will grant automatic planning permission for housing, the aim being for these to cover 90% of suitable brownfield land by 2020. This sounds a very tall order and, if the poor take up of Simplified Planning Zones is anything to go by, will not prove attractive to local authorities, which prefer not to cede their powers other than in very limited circumstances. For this to work at a national level therefore there will need to be a clear obligation on LPA’s and an element of compunction, coupled with a simple and timely procedure.
“But developers will welcome the commitment to more legislation specifically to support housing growth; what this might be isn’t laid out, but one of the planned changes is to allow deemed approval of planning conditions, where presently discharge of these isn’t working. Getting conditions discharged is a source of huge frustration amongst house builders. An ability to press on and develop in line with details submitted where formal approval hasn’t been given in a reasonable period of time is one way of cutting through the delay and getting sites started.”
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “The investment and upgrade of infrastructure is crucial to unlocking growth, and significant projects such as HS2 hold enormous potential for local areas.
“It is now crucial that progress on delivering this infrastructure happens quickly, and we urge government to not delay proceedings that could make a real difference to growth outside London.”
Jon White, UK managing director of Turner & Townsend, said: “A year after the Chancellor first announced his plan for a Northern Powerhouse, the time to deliver has arrived.
“The new government has already invested so much political capital in the idea of English city devolution that it has to work – and be seen to work. But its insistence that cities embrace the mayor-led model favoured by Manchester could prove an early stumbling block.
“The case for devolved power – and the opportunities it will bring for regional businesses, jobs and skills – is compelling. But it does present big challenges too. The devolved authorities will have to build their capability quickly to deliver much bigger projects and demonstrate that they are providing value for money.
“It is only by demonstrating that their initial tranche of money is being spent wisely, efficiently and effectively that they will be able to unlock more funds.”
Nicola Rigby, director in the planning, development and regeneration team at Bilfinger GVA, said: “Neighbourhood plans are clearly going to continue to play a significant role in housing delivery in particular in coming years. The principle of streamlining will, I am sure, be welcomed by both communities and developers given it is driven by a desire to have plans in place and therefore create certainty for all parties.
“The challenge within the process remains however ensuring a robust evidence base, to facilitate the delivery of appropriate scale and nature of development at the local level, and positive engagement from all parties – which whilst clearly can be streamlined, cannot be short-cut.”
Mark Burgess, managing director of Manchester-based Capital Properties: “This has undoubtedly been a vote of confidence in economic recovery and that is good news for the future of Manchester, a city that continues to thrive thanks to business growth and the inward investment that comes with it.
“With increased powers from devolution and the forward thinking of our council, Manchester has firmly established itself as a city where businesses can flourish and where people want to work.”