As well as promises to tackle rising inflation, a number of bills affecting the industry were announced in today’s Queen’s Speech – including procurement reform and new planning powers.
Among the 38 bills and draft bills announced today were the Renters Reform Bill and Social Housing Regulation Bill, the Procurement Bill to replace EU rules, the Energy Security Bill (which will aim to boost renewable energy and promote electric heat pumps), and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill giving councils new planning powers, including forcing landlords in England to let out empty shops.
While many in the industry have praised these efforts – especially in continuing the path to decarbonisation and the rewed focus on planning, others claim the changes will do little to help those suffering under a cost of living crisis.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, welcomed the news: “Construction will be delighted to hear that local procurement processes are being reformed to help SMEs, Levelling Up will focus on employment and regeneration, and regulatory reforms for business and on EU policy are coming. It is also good to see the Government recognise that without greater powers, East to West high-speed rail will not get off the ground.”
“However,” he says, “planning reform, which is key to Levelling Up, didn’t offer anything on housing supply or to builders but instead concentrated on resident involvement and greater local powers. Similarly, despite the mention of an Energy Bill, social housing and Infrastructure Bank, planning, which enables these ambitions in practice, was not mentioned alongside them.”
When it came to planning and housing, Brian Berry, CEO of the Federation of Master Builders, gave a qualified welcome: “It was good to see a renewed focus, through the Government’s Levelling Up Bill, on planning reform. Small, local housebuilders have been producing fewer and fewer homes for decades, with those in the market facing significant barriers to their work. In the 1980s, 40% of new houses were delivered by SME housebuilders; this figure now sits at a mere 12%.
“Planning has long been an issue for smaller housebuilders, with 62% of FMB members saying recently reporting that it’s making it harder for them to build homes. Greater investment in local authority planning teams would add capacity and enable faster turnaround times of applications, reducing delays and easing the strain on resources. Considering today’s commitments, I hope to see significant improvements to reverse the decades-long decline of SME housebuilders. These local building firms play a vital role in their local areas, employing school leavers, building good quality homes in the local vernacular and reinvesting their success back into their communities.”