It would be an understatement to say that the last few months have been interesting in the world of property, construction & development in the UK. There have been both positive and negative developments in the industry.
New legislations have passed, new projects have been announced and more funding has been released along with new governmental policies being introduced with a focus on the housing crisis precipitated by Covid-19. Some of the most important events have been summarised below:
The Draft Building Safety Bill
The tragic events at Grenfell Tower, in which 72 people lost their lives has prompted the government to make changes to the Building Safety Bill. This is done with the aim of making people feel safer in their homes. This new draft will ensure that there will always be an “Accountable Person” working with residents to listen and respond to their concerns.
A new regulator has also been announced within the Health and Safety Executive. This regulator will have three functions: improve the competence of people managing building work, to determine the safety of higher-risk buildings, and to oversee the safety and standards of all buildings.
There is also a commitment to make sure that leaseholders aren’t forced to pay for unaffordable historic repairs, and the use of combustible materials have been banned from being installed on the external walls of high-rise buildings.
Planning Permission: Law & Regulation Changes
The government has changed the rules regarding planning applications with the aim of helping high streets and town centres provide more space for businesses.
The new rules, which come into effect in September, will mean that full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings. Also, homeowners will be able to add up to two additional stories to their homes to either create new homes or more living space through a fast-track approval process. This is done with the aim of reducing building on greenfield sites.
Chris Pincher has submitted regulations to Parliament to ensure that any newly built property must have windows. This is in response to a campaign against a developed being granted permission to convert an industrial estate in Watford into 15 flats, of which nine had no windows. The permission has since been rescinded, and the property will be nine flats, all with windows.
Social Housing News
NatWest Group has announced it will be investing £3 billion in social housing over the next three years. This will be used to build new houses and improve existing properties.
NatWest is a strong supporter of the National Housing Federation Homes at the Heart campaign which has asked the government to focus on social housing in its economic recovery plan. The campaign is supported by more than 60 various charities, housing organisations and industry bodies, all highlighting the need for affordable, high-quality housing.
Robert Jenrick has launched a £266 Million Housing Fund for Vulnerable People. From the 18thof July 2020, councils and their partners can apply for funds from the government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme. This is to cover property costs and support new tenancies for 15,000 vulnerable people who were provided with emergency accommodation during the pandemic. This is part of a total of £433 million funding to provide 6,000 long term, safe homes for those in need.
In response to delays caused by Coronavirus Jenrick has also announced a one-year extension to the Government’s £9bn Affordable Home Programme. The original deadline for the building of 53,000 houses was set to start by March 2022, however, due to said delays and restrictions the new deadline is March 2023. Since 2010, more than 1.5 million new homes have been delivered, with more than 460,000 of them being affordable homes.
The Government has also announced plans to contribute to up to 180,000 new affordable homes via the £12 billion affordable homes programme. They are to bolster the Home Building Fund with £450 million to help smaller developers finance housing developments, and to support around 24,000 home by allocating funds from the £400 million Brownfield Land fund to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, and North of Tyne and Tees Valley.
Thames Estuary Launches Plan To Drive Economic Growth
Thames Estuary has the potential to create 1.5m jobs and £115bn GVA to the UK economy, reports the Thames Estuary Growth Board. The plans include an increase in freight and passengers moved on the river by 25% and 50% respectively over a 5-year period, and to establish a hydrogen production, storage, and fuelling structure to support a shift to eco-friendly transport.
A 2.6-mile-wide tunnel is set to be constructed, which will connect Kent, Thurrock, and Essex. The area is also set to become one of 10 freeports in the UK with different custom rules such as tariff flexibility, customs facilitation, and tax measures. There are also plans to build the “London Resort” in Swanscombe, Kent, which will be one of Europe’s largest construction projects. It will be three times larger than any resort park in the UK and will contain a theme park, a water park, 3,500 hotel rooms and should create 30,000 jobs.