The Chancellor Philip Hammond today set out to Parliament his Autumn Statement. Key announcements concerning housing and infrastructure include:
- New £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund for infrastructure for up 100,000 new homes in high demand areas in England.
- Relaxed restrictions on government grant to allow a wider range of housing-types.
- A further £1.4bn to deliver 40,000 additional homes to support a wide range of needs in England.
- A large-scale regional pilot of Right to Buy for Housing Association tenants.
- Continued support for homeownership through the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme and the Help to Buy ISA.
- £1.1bn in English transport networks and £1bn for road improvements
- Commitment for new rail and roads to support Oxford and Cambridge growth corridor
- £1bn investment in digital infrastructure
Phil Williams, RTPI President, said:
“The RTPI has consistently argued that housing and infrastructure need to go hand in hand and that planners are well positioned to realise the government’s vision of creating more productive communities throughout the country. We welcome the Chancellor’s infrastructure-led investment to boosting productivity and unlocking housing, and the shift of the housing strategy to include different tenures and more affordable housing. It is overdue and we need it urgently.
“The key to ensuring that the significant investment he announced today will really benefit communities and business, is to value and use the vast expertise of planners in this country to plan in a strategic and holistic way.
“Devolution plays a key role in incentivising a whole wider range of issues within planning and development. The announcements today that give greater incentives for city regions and counties to cooperate in meeting housing need, as well as additional support for LEPs to help unlock more housing, are in the right direction and need to be rolled out across more areas.”
The Chancellor made it clear his priority to build houses ’in places where they are least affordable’. A Housing white paper for England is forthcoming.
Mr Hammond pointed out that the one big objection to housing development in local areas is the perceived pressure it puts on infrastructure. With this in mind he will focus government investment on infrastructure, and today announced a £2.3 billion infrastructure fund to deliver 100,000 houses in areas of high housing demand in England. He also set aside £1.4 billion for 40,000 additional affordable homes and indicated government’s intention to relax restrictions on government grants in order to increase the supply of homes to buy and for rent.
RTPI view: We have consistently warned of the danger of allowing the housing debate to descend into a numbers game. We welcome the shift of focus on transport and services in the autumn statement’s response to the housing challenge, and the emphasis on the need for a variety of tenure types. These grants should help to create a fiscal regime that encourages “Build to Rent”. We are a complete outlier as a nation in failing to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer term security
The Chancellor announced £1.1billion in English transport networks; £1 billion for road improvements; £220 million for traffic pinch points; and £450 million for a digital signalling trial on rail networks. The National Infrastructure Commission has been told by the Chancellor to assume that government will invest 1.2 % of GDP in economic infrastructure from 2020.
On a regional level Mr Hammond pointed out that Transport for the North and the Department for Transport are working together on northern rail projects. The chancellor indicated his support for the Oxford and Cambridge growth corridor, setting aside £110m for an east-west rail and making a commitment for new roads. Funding will be made available for an evaluation of an East Midlands Rail Hub, and there will be continued investment in low emission vehicles, connected and autonomous vehicles, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
RTPI view: The funding made available for infrastructure is encouraging but the government must capture the wider benefits of this investment, particularly in terms of housing delivery. The RTPI said in its response to a National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) consultation that the ability to unlock large housing developments should be made an explicit criterion in assessing infrastructure. This is part of the RTPI’s ongoing call to government to align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively. Start by assessing infrastructure projects for the development land they unlock, not just their impact on speed and congestion.
We are concerned that a method of assessing infrastructure ‘need’, based only on existing patterns of demand, would risk continued investment in London and the South East at the expense of other areas.
The Institute has proposed a “feedback loop” methodology whereby the National Infrastructure Commission’s proposals for national infrastructure would invite matching plans from local authorities and developers for major housing growth. These plans would then be fed back into the original needs assessment, allowing the Commission to prioritise and fund infrastructure that would unlock housing.
Innovation and Digital
In order to address the Productivity gap, which sees the UK 30% behind US and Germany, the chancellor announced a £23 billion productivity fund for investment in innovation.
There is to be £1 billion invested in infrastructure to catalyse investment in fibre networks, and from April there will 100% business rates relief on firms involved in the provision of fibre infrastructure.
RTPI view: RTPI welcomes the government’s acknowledgment of the importance of the technology sector to the UK economy. Planning is crucial to ensuring both that the conditions are in place for the flourishing of the digital economy, and that innovation and growth in the technology sector benefits city regions. Planned innovation districts can provide the conditions for technology and innovation to flourish, while planned growth in these sectors can support cities in addressing long term challenges such as employment and skills, education, transport, and housing.
In order to tackle imbalanced economic growth between London and the rest of England the Chancellor announced £1.8bn from the local growth fund to regional LEPs - £556m to Northern LEPs; £542m to the Midlands and East of England; and £683m to the South of England and London.
Alongside these announcements for England the Chancellor allocated an £800m increase in infrastructure spending for Scotland; more than £250m extra infrastructure funding for Northern Ireland; and an extra £400m for Wales capital projects.
RTPI view: The RTPI welcomes investment in LEPS and local transport infrastructure, and the mayoral combined authorities powers to borrow, but renews its call on Government to require a devolved region to put a plan in place that ensures the investment unlocks house building in a mix of tenures with access to transport connections and jobs.
We welcome the announcements on city deals. This could see a city deal for each of Scotland's cities. These should be used to facilitate transformational change and better link infrastructure with new development, using planning as a conduit for this.
The announcements on housing and infrastructure are for England only so we wait to see what the Barnett Consequetionals will be for Scottish Government's budget and how they intend using these. RTPI Scotland has already argued that there should be more direct investment by Scottish Government in infrastructure and housing.
While he did not make any specific announcement the chancellor intimated the government’s ongoing commitment to release more land for housing.
RTPI view: The RTPI urges government to think widely and carefully about where we build new homes. Brownfield land should be made to achieve its full potential. Involve communities in places which are undergoing regeneration. Some housing may need to go on greenfield - so long as planned properly. Green belts must work well for everyone in society - across wider sub regions.