Theresa May used to tell us there was no magic money tree but the evidence of our eyes would seem to suggest otherwise.
The Government has just doled out £2.1 billion on feelgood schemes around the country to make sure it comes good on its levelling up promises.
Peterborough will get a two-sided station and cycle paths, Reading will get a new library and events space bolted onto its unloved Hexagon Theatre, Farnborough will get a new cultural centre and similar town centre upgrades are destined for Clacton, Colchester and Harlow.
These are just a few of the 111 schemes around the country that have councils celebrating.
But this comes just after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned of tough decisions and increased everyone’s taxes. And everywhere you look there are stories of hardship from energy bills and possible charges for using A&E to the multitude of strikes.
Not so long ago the Government gave all manner of companies public money for PPE contracts and continues to pour money into the bottomless money pit that is Ukraine. No doubt many more billions will follow.
And of course net zero fanaticism comes with an unfathomable cost.
But, even if you took the view that our industry stands to gain from all these new cultural centres and infrastructure, even in our wealthier areas, there is still a major problem.
Without planning reform, these projects will all cost more and take longer than they need to.
In many cases the funding has to be matched or topped up. If inflation keeps increasing, then costs could put the additional funding at risk. Then what happens?
If the Government had addressed the planning situation long ago, all these projects would have a better chance and could be under way when it next seeks election.
Let’s hope there is someone in the corridors of power who remembers one spectacular cultural and financial disaster.
The Public in West Bromwich, an extraordinary and radical art and cultural centre, cost £72m and had all manner of funding including from the Government and the Arts Council. It opened in 2008 and closed in 2013 because it was costing Sandwell Council £30,000 a week to keep going. It’s now a sixth form college.
Considering that debacle alone and ignoring the fact that any development has to go through the planning quagmire, can anyone really have confidence that the Government has made 111 good, well-costed decisions?
Image: UK Government, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
© Thames Tap (powered by ukpropertyforums.com).
Sign up to receive our weekly free journal, The Forum here.