Last week’s King’s Speech was more notable for what it lacked than what it contained, according to UKPF partners and members.
King Charles’ announcement failed to impress many of our panel who wanted to see more robust measures to tackle the property and planning industry’s numerous challenges.
Pavitar Mann, director of DevComms and leader of the Labour group on Slough Borough Council, said: “It was an historic King’s Speech in many ways, the first for King Charles III – the first of a King in over 70 years and the first (and potentially last) for PM Rishi Sunak.
“With 21 bills announced, there were no surprises or new policy ideas, with many of the proposed bills having been previously announced and the return of delayed bills.
“With a focus on crime and justice, and new licences for oil and gas projects, it was clearly intended to try to create further dividing lines between the parties ahead of the General Election.
“Arguably, the PM could have gone further to set himself apart as the agent for change that he is hoping will convince the electorate to back him, an argument that has been repeatedly made by his own backbenchers.
“Looking to housing announcements, the King’s Speech includes proposals to reform leaseholds and s21 evictions, albeit both with significant caveats. It is more telling as what was left out of the speech, indicative of a Government that knows it has to be realistic about what it can achieve in the year or so before the General Election.
“A standalone bill on reforming nutrient neutrality rules, promised during party conference just weeks ago, was hastily dropped with widespread recognition that the Government would not be able to get this through Parliament.
“Likewise, Suella Braverman’s proposals to ban charities providing tents was swiftly removed following the significant backlash it received following her weekend interviews.
“All in all, journalists were of the view that the announcements were underwhelming – politicians went further, with a range of people from Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davey to Metro Mayors arguing it shows a Government which has run out of steam.
“All eyes now turn to the Autumn Statement to see whether the Conservatives can produce new, eye-catching policies that please their own backbenchers and would help them turn things around.”
Karen Jones, partner and head of planning at Blandy & Blandy, said: “The Government’s usual target for change is planning so that a desire to bring change urgently might be thought a high priority.
“The King telling us that the Government would work to deliver its ‘long-term plan to regenerate towns and put local people in control of their future’ and ‘continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss’ tells us nothing of what the Government will actually do to progress these objectives.
“It would seem that the upcoming election will give rise to a paralysis on dealing with the delay to delivery of homes due to the block of nutrient neutrality, as no proposals were apparent, despite the promise to the Conservative Party conference that the Government would bring forward a nutrient neutrality bill at the earliest opportunity.”
Mike Shearn, group investment & development director of Haslams Estate Agents, said: “Underwhelming pretty much sums it up!
“The market and economy needs a shot in the arm to give customers some hope and confidence and so let’s see what the Autumn Statement brings.
“I can’t believe that there won’t be stimuli to help the market although I expect these to be more short term focused, such as SDLT cuts, rather than any big idea to help address the underlying housing crisis which will left to the next Government.”
Jonathan Headland, urban design director of WWA, said: “What a missed opportunity. Last Tuesday’s King’s Speech spoke volumes about the Conservatives’ direction of travel on housing, as well the Tory view on housing’s place in our political discourse.
“While there were some welcome moves to improve the leasehold system and improve conditions for private renters, there was not one single mention of the housing crisis nor steps the Government intends to take to tackle it.
“Given the scrutiny and interest that housing policy had at this year’s party conference season, it is especially disappointing that nothing more has materialised on bills around nutrient neutrality. Fingers crossed the amended NPPF doesn’t turn out to be as disappointing.”
Andy Moffat, who leads the planning team at Savills in Cambridge, highlighted the measures given royal assent in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
He said: “The Government says that these measures and the act as a whole will put local people at the heart of development; boost local services; rebalance housing and land markets; encourage developers to get building and bring high streets back to life.
“The changes are expected to take place after associated regulations and changes to national policy are in place, and a number of sections in the Act will require secondary legislation.
“Savills understands that the Government intends to bring forward an updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) following the Act being brought into law, with Housing Minister Rachael Maclean signalling in the House of Commons that this would be published ‘as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent’.
“The Government has also said it will publish its response to last December’s NPPF in due course, which will set out how planning policies in England are expected to be applied to help deliver the right homes in the right places.
“The emphasis of the NPPF is expected to shift to guide plan-making, with the National Development Management Policies taking precedence as the primary policy guide for decision making.”
Karen Charles, executive director of Boyer, said: “There can be no doubt that there is a housing crisis with many unable to afford to own their own home or find a quality home at a reasonable rent. It is therefore disappointing that the King’s Speech was lacking in content to address this.
“The impact of the housing crisis is extreme – not only depriving would-be first time buyers of the opportunity of home ownership and forcing some renters into homelessness, but causing a huge imbalance in the economy and a dearth of key workers in areas where they are much needed.
“It is clear that we needed a bill to address the housing crisis – one which takes into account the hurdles in planning and land acquisition but goes further still, for example, in addressing the fiscal issues.
“The crisis in affordable housing will continue to escalate if funding is nothing more than a tax on development, because spiralling build costs and added requirements such as biodiversity net gain push viability to its limits.
“The 2020 Planning White Paper,Planning for the Future, gave the development industry some hope that this Government understood the issues and was prepared to be ambitious, even radical. That its final legislative programme has given little consideration to these growing problems is extremely disappointing.”
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