Housing drives the Autumn Statement
Around £44bn will be provided in government support to boost housebuilding in the form of capital funding and loan guarantees, and stamp duty will be abolished for first-time buyers purchasing homes under £300,000.
From a planning perspective a £630m small sites fund will be established, while £400m will be set aside to regenerate housing estates. The housing infrastructure fund will be doubled to £2.7bn and £1.1bn made available to unlock strategic sites for development. The government also wants to stamp down on the practice of land banking through the implementation of compulsory purchase powers if needed.
The government confirmed it will publish the updated national infrastructure and construction pipeline in December this year - which will provide a first real glimpse of how the decision to leave the EU may be influencing macro-level decision making.
In terms of other infrastructure specific budget announcements have seen £320m allocated to the regeneration of the former Redcar steelworks site meanwhile a £1.7bn city transport fund will be established to be shared among six regions. The government also backed the conclusions of the National Infrastructure Commission to prioritise the delivery of improved transport connections and 1m homes in the Oxford-Cambridge belt (EIA+P 22-Nov-17).
Following the publication of the Air Quality Plan in July the chancellor has promised a £220m clean air fund to allow local authorities to address their most pressing pollution issues. Around £400m will also be set aside for investments in electric charging infrastructure in recognition of widespread rise of electric vehicles.
Flood defence spending has received a fractional boost with an additional £76m over the next three years with the aim of protecting around 7,500 homes, bringing total flood defence spend in 2015/16 up to £2.6bn between 2015/16 and 2020/21.
Those backing the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon are likely to feel aggrieved the government continues to delay making any announcement on its future. The commitment to provide £557m for future Contracts for Difference will continue although there is no clarity over CfD allocations post-2020. There will also be no further low carbon electricity levies until the cost of renewables falls further - something it is not anticipating until 2025.
Reacting to the infrastructure announcements, chief executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers Nelson Ogunshakin said: "The Chancellor’s speech continues to build on the government’s commitment to investment in the UK’s social and economic infrastructure which ACE welcomes.
"Alongside his continuing support for the national infrastructure and construction pipeline, we have seen an increase to £31bn for the National Productivity Investment Fund, £1.7bn for a City Transformation Fund and £64m for construction and digital training courses. All of which is welcome."
On housing, Director at consultancy WSP Adrian Hames said: "Housing remains this country’s Achilles’ heel. It is unlikely that Britain can be future ready, competitive and productive, unless we provide the next generation of engineers, environmentalists, planners, and apprentices with the opportunity to live and work where they chose. It will remain a challenge to deliver 300,000 homes per year, unless we opt for a different approach."
Principal at Ramboll Environ Andy Goddard said: "The Chancellor’s commitment to an additional £44bn for housing through capital funding, loans and guarantees, as well as its pledge to more than double the housing infrastructure fund with an extra £2.7bn, is welcome news.
"We hope to also see in due course a commitment to brownfield development as part of an integrated sustainability approach. This can help urban planning not only to create new liveable communities, but also provide a net environmental benefit through land regeneration, biodiversity, and resource management. Such forward-planning should be an integral part of the government’s plan for our housing future."
On biodiversity and natural capital, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s chief policy advisor Martin Baxter said on the target of 300,000 homes: "This is a complex issue with ‘no single magic bullet’, so given the volume of land this will need, we must establish how this will stack up against government’s plan to enhance the UK’s natural capital. What will this mean for our ecosystem services and biodiversity net gain when the aim is to build 300,000 new homes each year? Right now, that is unclear."
Chief executive of the Wildlife Trust Stephanie Hilborne said: "Today’s budget fails to acknowledge that the natural world is a limited resource. There is a need for new and affordable housing, but we must prevent an environmental free-for-all where everybody loses. We need more hedgerows and meadows for pollinators, wild places for our own wellbeing, and natural areas to soak up floodwater."
On renewables and carbon, head of policy and external affairs at Renewable Energy Association, James Court, said: "While the announcements for electric vehicles are positive, the UK government seem to be turning their back on renewables by announcing no new support for projects post 2020 and a freeze on carbon taxes. This could see a hiatus in much needed infrastructure development. Considering this is coming only a couple of months after the much vaunted Clean Growth Plan, it’s hugely disappointing.
RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: "The renewable energy industry has a little more certainty...The existing budget of £557m remains intact, and there is a commitment to maintain the Carbon Price Floor at current levels until coal comes off the system. The removal of an annual cap on the Levy Control Framework reduces the risk of a boom and bust cycle.
"While this is welcome, what is missing is the ambition to take full advantage of the UK’s global-leading renewables industry at such a crucial time for our country."
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