skip to main content

Budget 2018

In the main this year’s Autumn Budget was good news, but unsurprisingly, some of the statements delivered by Philip Hammond raised further questions of viability.

Firstly, the new commitment to ‘Get Britain Building’ by delivering 300,000 homes a year sounds promising, yet these figures immediately retire the government’s own Standardised Methodology for Assessing Housing Need, which currently identifies land for up to 260,000 new homes – a shortfall of almost 20% of the new target level.

As far as Budget announcements go, there will always be a requisite period of ‘fact checking’ to ensure that the ambition aligns with the reality, but in the case of housing there seems to be an obvious and gaping void.  Are the government’s promises really achievable with the resources, skills, land and planning system we currently have in place?

The Chancellor’s announcement that high-density urban residential development will be promoted above all else is, in some ways, good news providing the opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of stagnant and derelict sites and improve areas of our cities. However, the reiteration of the government’s intention to ‘protect’ our green belt sees the inevitable return to NIMBYist policies.

Of course, it is important that we preserve green, natural areas and quintessentially British countryside that is so admired, however with a severe shortage of adequate housing, something must give and green field sites will inevitably be an essential component of supply.

Furthermore, new housing cannot be delivered on a ‘one size fits all’ basis – for some, city living and high rise apartments simply lack appeal. Family homes located in suburbs and rural settlements will remain a key attraction, and there will always be a requirement for homes in these areas.

As we have demonstrated through many of our active and past projects, it is entirely possible to sensitively develop land to deliver an economic and community benefit to smaller villages whilst meeting a local need for housing and our team works hard with local councils, landowners and residents to ensure that our plans take into account their feedback as far as possible..

So what would we like to see? 300,000 new homes a year is, by anyone’s standard, a substantial ambition, but if you throw the current planning system, its red tape and politics into the mix, it is a very challenging task.

We’d like to see policy makers working with planners and developers to deliver new homes rather than the current blame culture that helps no one. We’d also welcome better regulation and enforcement of the Local Plans to ensure Local Authorities can demonstrate a viable five year supply of shovel-ready sites for development, which would act as a catalyst for the delivery of new homes.

Richborough would also like to encourage the government to consider lapse rates when it suggests that house builders are land-banking. In this respect, Lichfield’s ‘Stock & Flow’ report (January 2017) points out thatto achieve a long term average of 300,000 new homes per annum, a constant stock of around 0.9–1.1m dwellings in implementable planning permissions will be required, which means increasing the rate of permissions to between 410,000–460,000 units in the short term and then sustaining at just under 400,000 long term.

The full report is available on our website

It would be wrong to say we are not making progress; the government clearly recognises the need to deliver new homes across a mix of tenures for people across the country, and November’s Budget was definitely a step in the right direction. But there is still more to be done to unlock the UK’s house building and supply potential.