Most of this week’s Autumn Statement stories have focused on UK debt and Brexit uncertainty – definitely important topics – but between the headlines there are some potential positives for the UK’s construction industry… as long as you’re not in a hurry to see them actioned.
Philip Hammond’s announcement includes three substantial pots of money to help with new developments across the country…
The largest commitment is to set aside £2.3 billion for a Housing Infrastructure Fund. The idea is to help smooth over objections to planning applications for major developments by covering some of the costs of building better roads and utilities. Quite often, residents object to new houses on the grounds that the existing infrastructure will struggle to cope with a larger population.
The Government also intends to release £1.7 billion to accelerate development on publicly owned land in partnerships with private developers. The idea behind this move is to release brownfield sites in areas where housing demand is high.
And a further £1.4 billion is going to be used to build 40,000 new affordable homes. This should go some way towards bridging the UK’s housing shortage – some estimates put our housing demand at 300,000 new homes a year.
This money isn’t going to be spent immediately – most of the plans are scheduled for 2020 – and many developers are continuing to raise concerns about the planning process, availability of building materials (in particular blocks and insulation) and a lack of specialist skills in the industry – all topics which haven’t been addressed by this Statement.
It’s impossible to predict how much of an impact these announcements will have by the time they’ve filtered down onto real-life building sites. The proposal of a housing white paper should put some meat on the bones and help us understand how the money is being given out, where in the country, and to who.