DevComms managing director Rob Allaway has searched December’s Queen’s Speech to bring out what is most relevant to the property market in the Thames Valley.
With a new Government comes a Queen’s Speech to set out the agenda for the forthcoming Parliament.
The speech was presented on December 19 but much may have been missed in the shadow of Brexit and the festive period.
Now we are in the New Year, we have had a fresh look and sieved through the 151 pages of text that supports the speech, to flag issues for the property industry.
There are many references to unleashing the economic potential of the UK, a theme that emerged in several of Boris’s speeches from last year, seeking to inject some post Brexit positivity. There is also a focus on the regions including the north, a signal of fulfilling a promise the Prime Minister made in the wake of the General Election.
In terms of consultations and legislation, what can we expect?
An ‘ambitious’ Planning White Paper and funding for critical infrastructure.
A Renters’ Reform Bill – with new measures to protect tenants, including the professionalisation of letting agents.
A consultation on first homes – delivering a 30 per cent discount for local people and key workers who are first time buyers.
A Social Housing White Paper to support the continued supply and improve the quality of social housing.
Under English devolution, a White Paper will be published setting out the strategy to ‘unleash the potential of our regions’.
Legislation to bring forward the next business rates revaluation to 2021 and undertake more frequent revaluations as part of a fundamental review of business rates.
Planning White Paper
The new Planning White paper seeks to make the planning process clearer and more certain. Previous Governments have sought to do the same which has resulted in the system being in a state of flux rather than being simplified. Importantly though, it will seek to address resourcing and performance in planning departments, which is a critical issue.
The Government has committed to building at least one million more homes over the life of this Parliament and will be renewing the Affordable Homes Programme. The Government has said it will also ensure that if a new home can be sold as a freehold, then it will be.
First homes are to be funded by developer contributions and changes to both planning and legislation are being suggested to deliver this. There will be questions over viability and what this means for ‘affordable’ housing provision. It has echoes of the Starter Homes initiative that failed to take off despite the hype.
The Government is committing to upfront infrastructure provision with the new £10 Billion Single Housing Infrastructure fund. It is hoped that this will build support for new developments. Infrastructure tends to be the big issue in opposition to development and needs serious attention.
So it is a positive move but whether this translates into support for developments remains to be seen. It was previously hoped that the New Homes Bonus would do the same, although this did not result in a major shift in attitudes.
The National Infrastructure Strategy will be published alongside the first budget, programmed for May – £100bn to transform the UK’s infrastructure. This will set out plans to close the productivity gap between London and other parts of the UK and address climate change. Legislation will come forward ‘in due course’.
The Government has reiterated its commitments to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine but there is no mention of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc.
The Government intends to expand devolution and ‘trust in local people to choose what is best for their communities’. The number of directly elected Mayors will be increased and powers levelled up between Mayoral Combined Authorities. More local growth funding and devolution deals are planned, together with an effective funding model for Mayoral combined authorities.
The first budget will prioritise the environment. The Government is committed to introducing a Future Homes Standard by 2025, which will see new homes future-proofed with low carbon heating and world leading standards of energy efficiency by 2025. There are likely to be huge changes in the industry over the next 10 years to help combat climate change and developers that take the lead are likely to achieve a huge advantage.
We will have to see the detail of forthcoming policy to understand what it is likely to mean for investment in the Thames Valley. What does devolution and a shift in investment focus mean for projects like the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which is now being resisted by the local highway authorities?
But the Queen’s Speech generally has an air of positivity and optimism which has been in short supply over recent years and the Government looks to be attempting to address some of the major issues in property, infrastructure and the environment.
In general terms, an agenda that remains supportive of growth and business whilst tacking the environmental challenges has to be positive.