Budget 2017 – A Planning Perspective

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Considering Phillip Hammond is still the Chancellor today, you could consider his Budget on Wednesday a huge success. There were certainly plenty of people, and at least one serving Cabinet Member (if reports are to be believed), who were expecting the Chancellor to fail in spectacular fashion.

Expectations were so low that as long as the Chancellor didn’t literally set fire to the Despatch Box it would have been seen to be a good day. It’s important to make sure that the realities of the Budget and its implications are judged objectively and not in the light of historically low expectations.

Unfortunately for the housing and development industry there may not have been too much in the Budget to celebrate.

There was some good news in the Budget for house builders – especially if they are looking in the Cambridge/Milton Keynes/Oxford knowledge corridor. Yes, the Chancellor affirmed the Government’s commitment to build on average 300,000 new homes a year.

He also announced a review, to be led by Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, into the perceived gap between the number of houses being permitted by local authorities and the number of houses being built by developers.

Housing, and the lack of affordable housing, is one of the most pressing issues for young people. Over the next year politicians are going to be doing everything they can to make sure that any public anger about this is going to be directed squarely at the developers and not at them. They will be banging every drum, as loudly as possible, as often as they can.

After decades and successive Governments’ of all parties failing to build enough homes, MPs are going to ensure that developers are blamed for the housing crisis. The industry as a whole needs to be prepared to defend themselves, in the most robust terms possible, against charges of under delivery to protect profits.

Housebuilders need to be politically savvy as things are likely to get a little choppy. Messaging needs to be clear and easily digested so that people are well aware of the reasons why houses don’t just appear once permission is granted.

Developers of all sizes are, at the moment, the only organisations capable of delivering any kind of solution to the housing crisis. The job in hand goes beyond brick and mortar. As Government attempts to redirect their focus on the house building industry, developers need to be able navigate the political landscape and most importantly, make sure that they can help people understand the realities they face in tackling such an important and complex issue.

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