Government pledge to invest in local priorities, such as building new homes and infrastructure, is welcomed, however LGA says planning powers must remain at a local level and that ‘we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the stark inequalities the virus has exposed’. With social rent homes needed now more than ever, the NHF hopes government will make sure social housing is at the heart of plans for economic and social recovery.
Prime Minister’s plan to rebuild the UK
In response to the Prime Minister’s plan to rebuild the UK following the COVID-19 crisis, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “We are pleased the Government has pledged to invest in local priorities such as building homes and infrastructure, boosting connectivity and fixing roads.
“Local economies are different. Some require greater connectivity; some need to transition to new industries and others are short of affordable housing or adequate infrastructure.
“Investment in infrastructure will be vital, but with local control over how this funding is spent, councils can play a key role in providing genuinely affordable homes, fixing the nation’s roads, delivering high-speed broadband and high-quality mobile connectivity, boosting local economies, and tackling environmental challenges.
“Councils continue to face increased cost and demand pressures as a result of the pandemic, while at the same time as seeing a significant drop in income. Not only do councils need to be fully funded to help our communities beat this virus now but also to help support the nation as we look towards the next phase.
“Planning powers must also remain at a local level, to enable councils to deliver resilient, prosperous places that meet the needs of their communities. To fix the housing crisis, councils should be given the powers and tools to resume their role as major builders of affordable housing and deliver a programme of 100,000 social homes a year.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just recover from this crisis but to go further and address the stark inequalities the virus has exposed, develop a green recovery, address skills gaps and rebuild the economy so that it benefits everyone. With the right funding and powers, councils can get local economies started again and deliver a pipeline of long-term investment that will revive the economy and deliver long-term economic, social and environmental transformation.”
District councils respond to planning proposals
Responding to the Prime Minister’s plans to radically overhaul the planning system, Cllr Tom Beattie, Vice Chair of the District Councils’ Network, said: “Getting the country building desperately-needed homes again will be a vital part of the national recovery from coronavirus, and district councils stand shovel-ready to deliver.
“District councils and their local communities continue to grant nine in 10 planning permissions, while tens of thousands of homes with planning permission remain unbuilt — the housing delivery system is broken, not the planning system.
“To tackle the housing crisis, councils need to be given the funding to invest in infrastructure and the powers to build homes that are green, high quality, and affordable.”
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “The Prime Minister is right to focus on building homes as a way of getting the country back on track. It is vital that the Government’s £12bn Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) is delivered over five years.
“The Government has an opportunity to put social rent homes — homes for people on the lowest incomes — at the heart of social and economic recovery through the Affordable Homes Programme. These homes are needed now more than ever and should make up the lion share of the AHP.
“We are also pleased that there is a plan to look at how public sector land could be used for housebuilding. But plans to relax how old commercial buildings can be used are concerning and could lead to some very poor quality housing.
“Investing in new and existing social homes would quickly boost the economy, create jobs and change the lives of the people who have been most effected by the coronavirus crisis — low paid keyworkers, families in overcrowded and temporary accommodation and people who have been helped off the streets.
“The pandemic has highlighted the need for secure, high quality, better designed affordable homes and, for many people, support to live in them. We want to work with government to make sure social housing is where it should be — at the heart of plans for economic and social recovery.”
Will the Government’s ‘new deal’ create a two-tier construction industry? Ask lawyers Royds Withy King.
The Government has set out its plan to spend £5bn on accelerating infrastructure projects. The pledge to fast track major building projects across the country is designed to help the UK’s recovery from coronavirus.
Catherine Welch, a Partner in the Construction and Engineering team at law firm Royds Withy King explained: “Any speed up of investment in public assets is a good thing in supporting the construction industry and the wider UK economy given the impact of Covid-19 and the potential reality of a no deal Brexit at the end of this year.
“The question, however, is how quickly can this investment translate into actual contracts placed along the whole supply chain, with shovels in the ground and the cash flowing swiftly to contractors and suppliers.
“There is a concern that this investment could lead to a ‘two-tier’ construction industry.
“On the one hand, we have contractors and consultants involved in infrastructure projects looking to mid/long term prospects of projects coming online and building their business models around this clear investment pipeline. But on the other, there would be those contractors and consultants who work on projects ‘outside’ of infrastructure where the investment and project pipeline is already drying up.
“Government will need to try and balance all corners of the sector, and balance this investment with its desire to mitigate the environmental impact of certain proposed infrastructure projects.”
Header image ©ceebeestock/AdobeStock.