‘Having ambitious housebuilding targets is important’ – industry responds to government’s plans

Rachel Reeves

The property industry has broadly welcomed the chancellor’s pledge to “get Britain building again” by bringing back compulsory housebuilding targets as part of a wide-ranging plan to reboot the UK economy.

In her first speech as chancellor, Rachel Reeves also said she would overhaul planning restrictions and end the effective ban on onshore wind farms in England in order to speed up national infrastructure projects.

She said the government would make the “tough” and “hard choices” to fix the economy, adding that the UK had lagged behind other developed nations for years.

She confirmed Labour planned to build 1.5 million homes in England over the course of this parliament.

Industry reaction:

Neil Jefferson, chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, said: “The home building industry stands ready to support the Chancellor’s ambitious plans for housing with investment, job creation and the new homes the country needs.

“As she identified, we can only build if we plan effectively and if councils take responsibility for the housing needs of their communities. We also need to address the lack of capacity in local authority planning departments and unblock the 160,000 homes held up by nutrient neutrality.

“We must also consider the current struggles of first-time buyers to take their first steps on the housing ladder. In this environment it is frustrating that, for the first time in decades, there is no active government support for aspiring homeowners.

“Building the homes the country needs will address the social issues our housing crisis is creating, provide young people with access to decent housing, whilst creating tens of thousands of jobs and boosting investment in communities in every area of the country.”


Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, commented: “We’ve noticed a significant increase in phone and email enquiries since the election result, with buyers and sellers who have been sitting on their hands, not sure about which direction the market is likely to go, taking action.

Jeremy Leaf

“Many planning delays are not just down to lack of capacity, it’s the systems and subjectivity of decision-making. Central decision-making is key because in our experience many schemes get mired in local red tape. Having the threat of central government taking over might concentrate minds and get planning delivered more expeditiously. Once a decision in principle has been made about a development, delays are often for relatively minor matters, such as boundaries, local infrastructure and utility connections. It would be great if central government could step in if required without emasculating the local authority.

“It is important that SME developers and builders are encouraged because so often they can release much-needed blighted areas in communities and are the catalyst for getting work done. They have been forming a decreasing proportion of the total over the past few years, which is cause for concern.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm and having ambitious housebuilding targets is important. It helps local authorities with delivery and reduces delays but checks and enforcements need to be present wherever possible if planning applications are delayed.

“The last time the country achieved anything like such a target was with considerable assistance of local authorities and we believe they should be encouraged to build more, either in partnership with private developers or housing associations, as the target will be difficult for private builders to achieve on their own. There will be some windfall gains from the new towns but they will take time to identify and plan. In the meantime, everything should be done to accelerate and expedite work in progress and give developers the confidence not only to achieve planning in reasonably quick time without cutting corners but also create a stable environment which will help them feel confident that they can sell or let their finished product.”


Roger Barrett, Connells Group land & new homes managing director: “This announcement doesn’t go far enough for me. There is much more that needs to done to address the issues the industry faces, including increasing supply, implementing “local plan” processes to support the delivery of new homes, finding a resolution to the water neutrality requirements [which has already blocked 160,000 homes and could cause a fall of a further 41,000], investing in local planning authorities and reforming planning structures, introducing an effective replacement for Help to Buy and improving economic uncertainty which, of course, is impacting market confidence.”


Nathan Emerson

Nathan Emerson, CEO at Propertymark, commented: “There is no doubt that the new UK Government must prioritise building homes the nation desperately needs, and that is why we welcome a commitment to deliver new homes and review green belt boundaries with a view to prioritising brownfield and grey belt land to meet manifesto pledges.

“Local councils need as much support as possible in meeting the new UK Government’s aims. Building 1.5 million new homes by the next general election is an challenging target, but Propertymark would like to see urgent clarity and detail as to how this ambition can be achieved. This goal would require over a thousand new homes to be built every working day before 2029.”


Simon Vernon-Harcourt, design & planning director at City & Country, added: “Chancellor Rachel Reeves’s proposal to recruit new planning officers and unblock parts of the planning system is a welcomed change that the industry so desperately needs. As it stands, reports and information crawl through the system due to the lack of resources. While this is a strong place to start and should be a key priority, proactive and pragmatic officers must be appointed who can deal sensibly with issues.

“What we need is quick informal feedback and advice to allow things to move forward. But the issues are far more than a lack of human resources.

“Land is in such short supply that it goes rapidly to the highest bidder who will look to build quickly and cheaply, without thinking carefully about the design. With so little land available, there is rarely any real local competition to offer buyers options for different designs of homes and give buyers a choice on where to live, what to live in, and at an affordable level.

“Much of a house’s sales price comes from the land value at the start, therefore making more land available and the promise to unlock greybelt land will help lower the costs and give potential homeowners greater choice. The housing sector is crying out for increased land supply so we can only hope that the Labour Government will continue on its promises to take swift action and prioritise this within the next few years.”


Chancellor puts housing at the heart of a new era for economic growth



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