The Autumn Budget has arrived
Blog written by Andrew Strachan
Good things come to those who wait, and, as many have already pointed out, this year’s Autumn budget arrived early in the week…
But, despite the omen, the Chancellor’s statement seemingly signalled a pro-active move to provide some funding for struggling high streets, infrastructure receives long awaited additional funding, and home building continues apace.
On these points, here are just some of the announcements that will be crucial to the planning and development industry in the coming months:
High Street Help
A new £675m ‘Future High Street’ investment fund is also to be set up in order to drive through town centre improvements. The ambition here will be to ensure a wide offering is maintained within town and city centres and that well designed and planned office and residential offerings are retained and boosted.
A series of business rates cuts, offered to independent shops, pubs and cafes, was also set out to encourage take-up of high street space, with view to supporting town centre vitality.
Building on this, the Chancellor has indicated an intention to simplify the process for converting commercial properties into new homes. Coupled with a desire to evolve the UKs high streets, this could see increased support for town and city centre residential conversions of underutilised commercial and retail spaces.
In support of first-time buyers, a new Help to buy equity loan scheme is to be launched in April 2021 and which will include regional price-caps – capping prices at one and a half of the current forecast average.
A further £500 million was also signalled for the Housing Infrastructure Fund (bringing the total to £5.5bn) with a view to unlocking 650,000 homes. The next wave of strategic housing partnerships with nine housing associations was also sign posted, with the ambition to deliver up to 13,000 homes across England.
SME housebuilders have been tipped to receive further support, with up to £1 billion of lending allocated to boost the number of smaller scale developments.
Larger scale housing development was also a key feature of the budget, with the Letwin Review (published on the same day), setting out key recommendations. In particular the Government are keen to enable more homes to be made available for sale to local people at affordable prices. To achieve this, 500 neighbourhoods are to be given powers to allocate or permission land for housing through the neighbourhood planning system. These homes are to be for sale at a discount to local communities ‘in perpetuity’.
The Northern Power house initiative stands to gain an additional £37 million of funding for regional projects. A large part of this will go toward much needed rail upgrades, with the potential of improving the connectivity for many communities and knock on economic gains.
The transforming cities fund is also tipped to be increased to £2.4bn, and a further £90 million is to be spent trialling new models of smart transport in towns and cities.
Funding was also indicated in the South East, with £20 million being allocated to develop the plan for the critical central section of east-west rail between Oxford and Cambridge. In London, funding from the Housing Infrastructure fund will be allocated to improving the Docklands Light Railway supporting the delivery of 19,000 new homes.
Many of the announced initiatives are set to take effect after the March 2019 Brexit deadline, leading to speculation that some of the proposals may not survive a ‘bad deal’.
While we wait to find out, there is still much to discuss and we are always keen to assist anyone looking to understand how to apply the new changes to development opportunities.
If you would like to have an informal discussion about how any of the announcements will affect you or your site please do get in touch with a member of the NJL team.