06 Mar 2017
UK Government faces several major policy challenges, not least around housing. The Brexit process has added impetus to solving these challenges that are now more important and more complex than ever before. In order to provide solutions, the Prime Minister's 'Plan for Britain' must be seen in a wider domestic policy context.
The introduction and passage of the Great Repeal Bill also gives a unique opportunity to overhaul the whole body of statute and to rebalance the burden of regulation. Following this process of transposition, we should adopt a "retain, reform and repeal" approach; we are uniquely placed to help officials with this work given our role over all land, property and construction.
A good candidate for reform would be the procurement of construction through OJEU, which is commonly felt to be slow and burdensome, and to discriminate in favour of larger firms.
Expanding housing supply
The long-awaited Housing White Paper is the first dedicated paper of its type from a Conservative Government since 1995 and is very welcome. Grit and determination will be needed to cover off not just our annual supply shortfall, but the cumulative housing deficit we have built up over decades. We must get far better at delivering more houses at pace and consciously providing a range of tenures and affordable options.
Government needs to focus on the educational supply chain, which stretches back from employers via training bodies and schools, into secondary education. Without the alignment of these to increase and upskill the workforce, our construction ambitions will be frustrated. The industrial strategy is an obvious vehicle for this. Ministers can signal their intent through a radical reform and repositioning of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).
Government has initiated six major projects — the so-called "six Hs" — HS2, Hinckley, Heathrow, Highways, Housing and Heritage. The complexity of delivering these alongside each other, with pressure on costs, labour and material supplies, cannot be underestimated. Our largest gap, however, is attracting private finance for the plethora of projects in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, many of which are smaller, regional game changers.
More detail is needed on whether a sector deal will be available for land, property and construction and how the pre-existing Construction 2025 plan relates to the Industrial Strategy. The focus on industrial growth is a real chance to look at mechanisms like capital allowances, business rates, planning simplification and Enterprise Zones — which can all drive commercial property development and occupation — and ultimately increase our productivity and manufacturing exports.
Business Tax Roadmap
Working with the CBI, we actively supported development of the Roadmap and were glad to see property taxation feature prominently. Tax stability is more important to economic health than special-interest tax breaks; a robust and predictable tax system for property is needed in unsettled times.
25 year farming and environment plans
Both of these plans are forthcoming and will be central to land management now, and the creation of a new policy framework operating after 2020. The artificial nature of two separate plans will become increasingly apparent; however, it does represent an opportunity to create a true-market in eco-system services and bio-diversity offsetting.
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