The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) “place housing at the heart of the government’s long term plan and shows a welcome emphasis on the importance of small sites for housing delivery”.
Chief executive Brian Berry said: “Given the scale of the housing crisis we face, I’m encouraged to see housing considered alongside long term infrastructure planning. It is more pleasing still that housing delivery is being viewed in a much more comprehensive way than we have seen before. As well as announcements on major developments, like a new garden town at Bicester, determination to speed up planning and releasing more public land, there is an equal focus on the importance of small developments in meeting long term housing need.”
Mr Berry continued: “Government, at a central and local authority level, can fall into the trap of being excessively focused on large projects, at the risk of ignoring the enormous cumulative capacity of small sites to deliver new housing. One of the major barriers which small house builders face in bringing forward small developments is the disproportionate cost and complexity which the planning process tends to inflict on minor applications.”
He concluded: “The publication of data which will ensure greater transparency around processing times for minor development applications is an important step in maintaining focus on smaller sites. A commitment to looking at how to better support the approval of more small sites is also an extremely welcome statement and we look forward to engaging with government on this issue. If the government continues to take this comprehensive approach to delivering new housing, we stand a good chance of starting to meet the demand for new homes.”
The Home Builders Federation (HBF) also gave the government a glowing review, saying that the new measures announced yesterday “should reduce the time taken to get applications approved, cut down on risk and get more sites active more quickly”.
If successful, the measure should particularly assist and encourage smaller builders who lack the financial capacity and resources of larger companies and have been disproportionality penalised by the delays and costs of the current system, the HBF said.
The HBF was even happy to see the government take on the development role itself at Northstowe, near Cambridge, where successive governments have been trying to develop former Oakington Barracks land for 20 years now.
“If contracts can be developed that bring sites forward quickly, in a way that is attractive to developers, the area could contribute to much needed housing numbers,” the HBF said. “Such a model could be particularly attractive to smaller developers if upfront costs are reduced. Delivery must be closely monitored and if sites don’t come forward as anticipated, alternatives sites must be allocated elsewhere to ensure housing needs are met for the area.”
HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “Measures to speed up the planning process are positive and what the industry has been calling for. We need a system that is responsive to current housing needs and not one that acts as a constraint. The current system is too slow, overly complex and costly. Such improvements can only help get more sites started more quickly.”
Civil engineering contractors were more excited by the government’s energy policy.
Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: “We are especially pleased to see a pledge to the implement the final stages of electricity market reform, which we believe will secure investment in all of the low carbon sectors and put energy efficiency at the heart of a long-term energy strategy.
"But at the same time government must provide levy control framework clarity over the next decade to deliver low carbon deployment and ensure best value."