30 October 2018
Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered his autumn budget yesterday, 29th October 2018. Our in-house multi-disciplinary experts from across the business were quick to respond and share their collective thoughts around planning, housing, transport, infrastructure, energy and climate change.
Craig Hatch, Managing Director - Surveying & Asset Management
So, we see the end of austerity. Hopefully a side consequence of this will be re-skilling of local authority development control departments. The loss of great community technical leadership over recent years has made it more difficult to sympathetically develop the ‘place’ as it takes skills of both developer and regulator to achieve the right balance. Sometimes it’s difficult to have a conversation with yourself to do the right thing.
We all know that the creation of more homes is critical to us, in particular, the South East. Exempting stamp duty on shared equity homes and providing letting relief for shared occupancy tenants are two welcomed measures to reduce the strain on spec development. Investment in new development and continued investment in new housing however, remains critical. This, in combination with the more entrepreneurial approach being taken by the expanding Homes England team will be key in moving towards meeting demand. Government recognition of the role to be played by Housing Associations, with increased investment and re-engagement on a large scale will also contribute significantly in the provision of affordable community accommodation.
The end of PFI is nigh. This was politically necessary, however investment in large scale projects will still need to occur and it will be interesting to see what conclusions are reached on the funding alternatives. In the short term, the Stonehenge Tunnel, Glen Parva Prison and even perhaps Moorside nuclear new build power station through the Regulated Asset Base model may indicate the preferred routes.
As a company long connected to the defence sector, it is good to see further investment in defence technology. Additional funds to support mental health for our veterans is both necessary and welcomed. Particularly positive is providing funds to educate our children so that they learn from history. The Holocaust Education Programme to mark the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and the investment in ensuring next generations are aware of the horrors experienced at this time of commemorating the end of the 1st World War remain relevant to all of us, lest we forget.
Gerald Sweeney, Director, Planning
After recommendations from an independent review of build-out rates, the Government continues to look at how it might capture increases in land value generated by planning permissions. Interestingly, no measures proposed in this budget, so we continue to wait for their solution to the under-delivery of housing now that it agreed that it isn’t because of land banking by house builders.
The Budget includes suggestions to ease planning restrictions, possibly including new permitted development rights, on converting town centre shops to other uses, including residential.
There is a significant need to rejuvenate our high streets if we wish to maintain their critical mass, the ability for linked trips and a sequential approach associated with sustainable development. The ability to easily tax and collect “bricks and mortar” has been only a small part in the overall demise associated with the open market approach of the internet. The Budget recognises that this isn’t reversable, so a new approach is essential.
Significant other contributing factors to internet shopping includes a lack of adequate car parking, complicated landownerships when it comes to redevelopment proposals and a lack of variety in the shopping offers. If we are to be successful and positively enable our high streets, then we must move away from planning restricting us and promote multi-functional retailing with social spaces that create a sense of place within their local area. Town centres need to be a local destination of choice, not somewhere only for a single convenience shop without the opportunity for linked trips.
In the main permitted development rights allow mixed use residential development to be successful. The revitalising of old and obsolete offices has delivered much needed residential units that people can afford and offers something different to the standard sub-urban new build. These units are neither better nor worse but importantly, they are different - variety is needed to begin the process of healing our town centres but we must go much further with new planning laws allowing new development to build up and increase density levels.
Rajiv Sudan, Group Business Development Director
In this, the last budget before Brexit, we see some nods to transformative infrastructure investment but not enough to give the sector the real, supercharged boost it needs.
Roads and housing are the major winners with reasonable significant funding being announced. The increase in the Transforming Cities Fund is particularly welcomed as it enhances the Metro Mayors’ (and other regions’) ability to invest in transport infrastructure at a local, targeted level.
The abolition of PFI/PF2 is noteworthy. This UK borne procurement process is still alive, kicking and growing overseas and expertise in this field I highly sought after. Canada’s multibillion-dollar P3 infrastructure pipeline is predicated on the UK PFI system. I believe there still is a place for this type of access to funds and private sector technical skills albeit taking on board lessons learnt.
Simon Sjenitzer, BD Director - Surveying & Asset Management / Energy & Climate Change
I’m pleased that The Chancellor has announced his support to help make Aberdeen a global centre of oil & gas decommissioning excellence. This chimes with the work that WYG have been doing to ensure direct links with West Cumbria as the Centre of Nuclear Excellence.
We are supporting the NDA and OGA in establishing ‘communities of interest’, sharing knowledge and experience in the interests of driving down costs for the benefit of the public purse.
Steve Mustow, Director - Head of Environmental Planning
The UN IPPC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s) most recent report warned that the world has only 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5oc and thereby avoid environmental, and consequently economic, disaster. Action has to be taken immediately to change the nature of the global economy to one based on renewable energy and low-carbon infrastructure. Given this existential threat to the planet, in comparison to which uncertainty over Brexit is a pimple on a molehill, one would have thought that the budget would be packed with initiatives to promote clean growth.
There is an urgent need for measures to stimulate the green economy, such as introducing a fairer market and taxation system for renewable energy and supporting households and businesses to become more energy efficient. Instead the Chancellor has scrapped Enhanced Capital Allowances, signalled his intention to weaken Carbon Price Support and frozen fuel duty.
The most significant environmental initiatives are £60m to plant 10m trees in England and a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging with less than 30 per cent recycled content. Although the tree planting initiative is a step in the right direction and will help lock up carbon, 120m trees are threatened by ash die back in England, so there may still be a net loss of trees.
The plastic tax will only be introduced from April 2022, and as important as it is to protect the world’s oceans from plastic waste, there won’t be any coral reefs left to protect if climate change continues. It appears that Philip Hammond is oblivious to his place in history. This will put him on a par with Neville Chamberlain and others who have failed to take a stand when the country has faced the greatest threats.
Adrian French, Director - Planning
Despite the positive recommendations of the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) earlier this year, the Chancellor’s autumn budget disappointingly failed to give any focus to action on addressing climate change and increasing the share of energy secured from renewable energy.
We now need to see detailed measures in the Spending Review and NIS to deliver key recommendations of the NIA in particular, including the drive to secure 50 percent of the UK’s electricity sourced from renewable sources by 2030, and development of essential electric vehicle charging infrastructure to deliver the Government’s targets for the transition away from fossil-fuelled vehicles.
For more information, visit the BBC website for a summary of the Budget 2018: Key points at-a-glance.