Build, Build, Bluster?
In response to the government’s new planning policy, Richard Shield from H&H Land & Estates comments on the region’s capacity to bring dreams to reality.
Whilst a ‘permission in principle’ is not new, it is now being promoted by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick as a means to reduce time for housing development approval across England as part of a review of the planning system. Under the new system, councils will be asked to earmark land for "growth", "renewal", or "protection", laying the ground for automatic approval in some zones. Arguing that today it takes an average of five years for a ‘standard housing development’ to go through, H&H Land & Estates is also keen to see streamlining of acceptable projects.
Here, Richard Shield, Director of Residential & Commercial Development at H&H Land & Estates, gives his perspective on the press article penned by the Housing Secretary in the Sunday Telegraph, which promises ‘radical and necessary reforms’ to the planning system to get Britain building.
“There is no doubt that the house building industry will welcome reform, especially if it does indeed ensure the delivery of much-needed new homes by speeding up the tortuous process of bringing land forward for development. However, the article promises that new housing developments will not be identikit, “anywheresville” constructions, but will draw inspiration from places such as Bath, Belgravia and Bournville. That is a wonderful ideal, but one which is unlikely to be something that can be commercially viable in much of our region.”
Richard points to the need to consider the rising build costs, with inflation putting pressure on inputs and margins. Not only is labour more expensive and short supply due to almost full employment rates in construction, but materials costs are expected to rise, perhaps even more so post-Brexit.
“Notwithstanding the general capacity of our house building industry to increase output, the northern markets are incomparable to those examples cited; a two-bedroom property in Bournville will sell at a price approaching £500,000. Up in the North, build cost inflation has continued to outstrip house price growth for several years, and it means that, once the burden of the accompanying infrastructure – schools, health care facilities, roads – have been factored in, the profits from construction of what house builders refer to as ‘standard product’ is marginal in many areas.”
Richard continues: “As such, it is unrealistic to expect a significant change in the type of houses we see built in our region, but what has been demonstrated by a few schemes across the North is that a genuine landscape-led scheme with more generous, well-planned and managed open space, accompanied by community facilities and good transport links, can result in a distinctive and pleasant environs for new homes.”
Considering the generational divide between those who own homes and those who don’t, a more diverse, accessible and competitive housing market should be a key agenda going forward. Richard concludes:
“The planned reform should be welcomed but with some sense realism in terms of what it means for the delivery of new homes across our region.”